The Undersecretary of USDA Rural Development says the time is now to get rural Alaska communities on water and sewer systems.
Patrice Kunesh has been in Alaska this week, visiting Bethel, Quinihagak and Kwethluk as well as Anchorage and Juneau.
Western and Interior Alaska are part of the USDA’s StrikeForce initiative where the agency helps fund housing, energy, water and sewer, and agriculture projects in poor, rural communities.
Kunesh saw some of the projects in action and said she also realized the tremendous needs in many rural Alaska villages, like Kwethluk.
“Half of the village has now been hooked up to the water and waste system and they’re doing really quite well. The other half of the village is still using has honey pots. I think it’s about a two-year process to install and get these homes capable of supporting the wastewater sanitation system,” she said.
The money for the new systems come from USDA’s Rural Alaska Village Grant Program. It also funds Laundromats, called washaterias.
Kunesh says as water and sewer go into villages, some operation and maintenance jobs are created.
Jim Nordlund is Alaska State Director for USDA Rural Development. He said 75 percent of the funds are federal, with a 25 percent state match.
We’ve been lucky to continue to have approximately 30 million dollars appropriated each year, especially in an era where EPA funding has dropped off significantly.
Over the last five years, Nordlund said, the agency has funded water and sewer projects in Hoonah, Kake, Kasaan, Thorne Bay, Ketchikan, Saxman and Metlakatla.
“The situation is always a little different, frankly better, not as dire as in Western and Interior Alaska, but still needs a lot of attention. These are small communities, they don’t have a lot of resources to pay for systems and we’re there to help,” Nordlund said.
The USDA designated Southeast Alaska a StrikeForce Zone last year.
The USDA officials were in Juneau on Thursday for the Innovation Summit, sponsored by the Juneau Economic Development Council.
While in Bethel, Kunesh announced a $718,656 grant to public radio and television, Bethel Broadcasting, Inc. to help expand television channels into villages in the region as well as continue radio and television broadcasts in Yupik.
- During his first year in Iraq, Richard Marshall drove 96 combat missions. He left at the end of 2007 and he returned in 2010. He also worked on contract in Afghanistan for two and a half years.
- Watch Caleb Klauder and Reeb Wilms peform a Red Carpet Concert during the 2017 Alaska Folk Festival
- Our weekly education news roundup: Trump administration unveils its 2018 budget proposal; DeVos talks school choice in Indianapolis, then faces a grilling from lawmakers.
- DOD inspectors declined the offer and "at no time viewed the remains" during a review of the mortuary at Dover Air Force Base. The Air Force says it will investigate the incident.