FAIRBANKS - Two spending bills recently unveiled in the U.S. Senate would provide rural Alaska with $75 million to improve drinking water and sanitation systems.
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the bills on Thursday. They now go to the full Senate, after which they must be combined with the House versions.
Sen. Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican, said Friday that he considers the water and sewer work essential to the public health and economy of villages. Stevens, the ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee, requested the money.
One bill would route $45 million through the Environmental Protection Agency. The amount is 11 percent higher than the amount provided in a similar funding bill last year, according to Stevens.
The committee on Thursday also approved $30 million for the Village Safe Water Program, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a 25 percent increase, Stevens said.
Other spending bills also carry smaller amounts for federal water-related projects.
The 2000 Census showed Alaska continued to lead the nation in the percentage of homes without plumbing, but progress is being made. About three-quarters of Alaska homes were equipped with flush toilets by last year. The state's goal is to bring water and wastewater service to all households by 2005.