Villages receive funding for water projects
Water and sewer infrastructure in rural Alaska is set to get a boost from federal grant programs.
The United States Department of Agriculture's Rural Development arm announced plans to spend $27 million on various water and sewer projects in rural Alaska, including the planning phase of improvements to aging infrastructure in three Bristol Bay communities.
The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium will receive funding for preliminary reports on projects in Twin Hills, New Stuyahok and Chignik Bay, among the dozens of projects set to be funded in the coming year— many of which are in western Alaska.
The Aug. 30 USDA-RD announcement included funding for the health consortium to do work in more than a dozen communities through the Rural Alaska Village grant program and the State of Alaska's Department of Environmental Conservation to take on another dozen. Another seven communities including Bethel are set to receive funding directly, and several other organizations will also receive money.
The projects were chosen by the USDA based on how their applications scored, and ANTHC Director of Project Management David Beveridge said there are more projects in the state not included in this round of funding that could receive it in the future.
"This will continue," he said. "There's a lot of need."
In Twin Hills, which is slated to receive about $41,000, the report will look at options to work on the community's 30-year-old water system.
Right now, if something goes wrong - and the old water treatment plant and distribution system each have various problems - it's difficult to shut down one piece without shutting down the whole thing, Beveridge said. The report is expected to include ways to make it easier to do that.
The New Stuyahok report will provide possibilities for addressing structural, mechanical and electrical concerns at the town's 30-year-old water treatment plant. That report will receive $21,750 from the grant program.
Beveridge said he expects the report to suggest replacing, rather than repairing, that plant because of the issues, but that won't be known for certain until the report is done.
The Chignik Bay report will look at an even older system. There, the community is dependent on 70-year-old infrastructure that moves water from a mountainside to the village, via an above-ground transmission line. That's prone to breaks and leakages, particularly in the winter, which can shut down the whole system when they occur.
"This'll look at options and alternatives to repair the system," Beveridge said.
That's slated for $56,250 in federal funds.
All three Bristol Bay projects are all preliminary reports, which are set to be completed by next September. Beveridge said that timeline gives the communities time to work with ANTHC to identify sources of funding to complete the projects detailed in the reports, and apply for that money.
In total, ANTHC and DEC are set to receive a total of $21.6 million through the Rural Alaska Village Grants, which is the largest of the federal funds announced Aug. 30. The largest number of projects are the preliminary engineering reviews, which will be done in several other communities as well including Anvik, Atka, Platinum and more. But the funding announcement also included $6.6 million for water transmission work in Unalakleet, $5.9 million for a water and sewer project in Eek, $3.2 million for wastewater work in Saxman, and smaller sums for a few more communities.
Molly Dischner can be reached at email@example.com.