The Town of Bergen is approved for nearly $9 million in funding for water infrastructure, the USDA's Rural Utilities Service Administrator Chad Rupe announced Thursday.
A loan of $5.9 million and a grant of $3,058,000 from the USDA's Water and Environmental Program will be used to install a water distribution system.
The project description says the service area has no municipal water system and Bergen residents rely on individual wells. It says this funding will bring public water service to 335 residential connections and 32 commerical properties in the town that currently lack access to safe potable water.
"We are very pleased with the award (of the funding package)," said Town of Bergen Supervisor Ernie Haywood this morning (Aug. 9), "and we thank all those involved who made it possible. We are moving forward..."
According to the description, "Regulatory agencies indicate the deficiencies in the system are a threat to the health of residents and that the completion of this project will address the code issues, alleviate health problems and provide reliable water to the residents and commercial properties. The project will also supply fire protection for all located in the district."
In areas without public water, firefighters must draw water from other sources such as ponds and creeks in order to fight a blaze.
Proponents of the federal assistance package reached out to property owners to inform them about the plan for a water district and public meetings have been held about it.
As part of the approval process, the USDA requires a percentage of affected property owners to sign petitions in favor of the infrastructure and funding package. For the last several months, the Town of Bergen has gathered signatures to create a water district where there is no public water system.
The expectation is that construction would start quickly once the funds are released and that it would take about a year to complete, said Bergen Councilman Mark Anderson.
In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities.
In January 2018, Secretary George Ervin "Sonny" Perdue III presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump.
These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force.
Thursday's announcement about rural water and wastewater investments will benefit 133,000 rural Americans in 24 states. A total of $135 million will be distributed to pay for 49 U.S. projects.
USDA had $2.9 billion in loans and grants available in the Water and Environmental at the start of the 2019 fiscal year. Additional funding announcements are expected in the coming weeks.
USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports: infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed Internet access in rural areas.
For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.