Village safe water program remains part of farm bill

An attempt to remove state-specific programs from the 2012 Farm Bill nearly cost Alaska its Village Safe Water program.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said she convinced leadership of the Senate Agriculture Committee to keep the program’s 2012 funding in the bill.

“As we move forward in our budgeting priorities, we must continue to place a high priority on the health and bare necessities of our citizens,” Murkowski said.

The program has brought the state approximately $20 million per year in U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development funding.

The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Nutrition passed the revised farm bill, with funding for the village water program, on Thursday.

The program funded $1 million for 11 planning projects and partially funded 56 multi-year projects totaling $34 million in 2012.

Many of Alaska’s 280 geographically isolated communities lack a safe source of drinking water. Sustainable sewage disposal is also lacking in many communities.

The Village Safe Water Program works to bring these facilities to communities where they are needed. The program is part of the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Division of Water.

Yearly applications are scored to award grants. Communities with a “demonstrated capacity to operate and maintain the facilities” are more likely to receive a grant. Scores are based heavily a proposed project’s ability to meet public health needs.

The federal government allocated $524,000 in 2012 toward Coffman Cove’s estimated $6 million project to design and construct a water storage tank, new water source intake, lift station upgrades and system extension. The state of Alaska matched with $175,000.

Of the estimated total cost of $2.67 million, the community of Kasaan is receiving $233,000 in federal funds and $78,000 from the state in 2012 for the design and construction of a water treatment plant and water storage tank.

Pelican’s $4.6 million water source, treatment and storage project includes upgrades to its sewer lift station, an expansion of Pelican’s water distribution and sewer collection system and improvements to the community’s wastewater treatment system. The state is kicking in $134,000 in 2012 to the fed’s $402,000.

The design and construction of a water treatment plant in Saxman is expected to cost $3.06 million over several years. In 2012, the federal government partially funded the project with $268,000. State funds dedicated to the project totaled $89,000 in 2012.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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