WASHINGTON, Nov. 2, 2015 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced loans and grants totaling $314 million for 141 projects to build and improve water and wastewater infrastructure in rural communities.

"Many rural communities need to upgrade and repair their water and wastewater systems, but often lack the resources to do so," Vilsack said. "These loans and grants will help accomplish this goal. USDA's support for infrastructure improvements is an essential part of building strong rural economies."

USDA is awarding $299 million for 88 projects in the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program and $15 million for 53 grants in the Emergency Community Water Assistance Grant program.

ECWAG grants enable water systems that serve eligible rural communities to prepare for, or recover from, imminent or actual emergencies that threaten the availability of safe drinking water. Water and Waste program recipients can use funds to construct water and waste facilities in rural communities.

The Big Sandy Rancheria Band of Western Mono Indians in Fresno, California, was selected for one of the ECWAG grants. It will receive $494,300 to drill a well and connect it and another well to the water system.

One of the water and waste loans is going to the Columbia Heights Water District in Caldwell, Louisiana. The loan, for $736,000, will be used to upgrade the water storage tank and related equipment at a wastewater treatment plant. The community is in an area of persistent poverty that USDA has targeted for special assistance through the StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity Initiative.

Three recipients receiving funding today were given priority consideration through a provision in the 2014 farm bill that encourages communities to adopt regional economic development plans. These projects are centered on regional collaboration and long-term growth strategies. They leverage outside resources and capitalize on a region's unique strengths.

The recipients are the West Stewartstown Water Precinct in New Hampshire; the Lowcountry Regional Water System in Hampton, South Carolina; and the city of Waubun, Minnesota. All three projects involve upgrades to water and wastewater systems. The Hampton project is in a high-poverty area designated as a Promise Zone. In areas designated as Promise Zones, federal, state and private-sector partners work with local communities and businesses to create jobs, increase economic security, expand educational opportunities, and increase access to quality, affordable housing.

Six of the projects announced today will provide $3.9 million to benefit Native American areas. These water and waste awards include the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians in Minnesota and five projects in California, including Big Sandy Rancheria, two awards to the Cortina Band of Wintun Indians, the Grindstone Indian Rancheria and the Yurok Tribe.

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USDA Rural Development is accepting applications for loans and grants to build rural water infrastructure. Applications may be completed online through RDAPPLY, a new electronic filing system, and at state and local Rural Development offices. Public entities (counties, townships and communities), non-profit organizations and tribal communities with a population of 10,000 or less are eligible to apply. Interest rates for this program are at historically low levels, ranging from 2 percent to 3.25 percent. Loan terms can be up to 40 years. For more information, visit http://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/rd-apply.

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