State's water systems get $40 million boost
USDA awards funds to 33 rural communities in Minnesota
ST. PAUL -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture is giving 33 rural Minnesota communities $40.1 million in grants and low-interest loans to build wells and wastewater treatment systems.
The recipients include Zumbro Falls, Chester Heights in Olmsted County and Lansing Township in Mower County.
James Mosely, deputy secretary of the USDA, announced the projects Tuesday, saying they're important for families and businesses in rural communities and "will go a long way in improving water quality and the environment."
The state's projects are part of a total of $703 million announced in Washington for 377 projects in 47 states and Puerto Rico.
The awards to Minnesota communities range from $121,000 to $3.67 million, including:
Zumbro Falls, which will use its nearly $1.87 million in grants and loans to replace water mains, wastewater collection lines and build a water tank.
Olmsted County/Chester Heights, which will use its $1.01 million in grants and loans to construct a wastewater collection system.
Lansing Township, which will use its $931,000 in grants and loans to build a water supply, storage and distribution system.
Minnesota's $40.1 million is one of the largest totals appropriated to any state under the program, which is funded through the $181 billion farm bill that President Bush signed May 13. The new law includes $73 billion in new spending for a variety of water programs over 10 years.
The new money for Minnesota is in addition to the $25 million to $31 million typically appropriated for the state from USDA Rural Development for water and economic projects each year.
USDA Rural Development is involved in projects that ensure communities have the necessary infrastructure to attract industries and create jobs.
"Let's face it: If you have contaminated water, the town dies," said Steve Wenzel, state director of USDA Rural Development. "By having these kinds of facilities, it strengthens the infrastructure and rural communities so they can be vibrant and strong and, we hope, grow and prosper."
Ag secretary Ann Veneman agreed, saying "these projects will provide critical infrastructure funding that will help residents and businesses in rural communities, as well as create jobs and more investment in these areas."
Most of the $40.1 million is in grants. The rest is for loans repayable over 30 to 40 years at 4.5 percent to 4.75 percent interest.