More than $4B available for small towns to improve water systems

More than $4 billion in loans and $1 billion in grants are available for small towns nationwide to improve their community water and wastewater systems, according to officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service.

The funding is part of the Water and Wastewater Disposal Program, which assists rural areas with upgrading and expanding their drinking water systems, along with stormwater drainage and infrastructure to dispose solid waste. Carrie Castille, USDA Rural Development state director, said Louisiana is eligible to receive up to $75 million in funding. Towns with a population of 10,000 or fewer can apply for the funding by Sept. 30.

“The whole goal is to build water infrastructure throughout the state and build our rural economies,” Castille said. “It is a necessity and should be available to all citizens.”

The funding was secured through the 2018 omnibus spending package, Castille said. She said the amount of grant and loan dollars is about “four times” what is typically allotted.

“This was kind of a surprise to us,” Castille said.

Many rural towns in Louisiana have water systems that are either outdated or in distress. Gov. John Bel Edwards has said the state has to spend about $10 billion over the next 20 years to maintain and improve its water systems.

“This is a challenge nationwide; we have aging water infrastructure,” Castille said.

For more on applying, call Jared Hicks, USDA Rural Development acting community director, at 318-473-7940 or email jared.hicks@la.usda.gov. Online applications available by visiting www.rd.usda.gov/la.

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In this photo from 2016, Gov. John Bel Edwards meets with Broadmore Drainage District representatives Don Gauthier and Larry Lyons and Sen. Dan “Blade” Morrish. Edwards applauded the extraordinary efforts of hundreds of volunteers including area school children in responding to fast-rising waters and saving the town from major flooding. Lake Arthur, with fewer than 10,000 residents, could be eligible for funds to improve drainage. 

Doris MaricleJefferson Davis Parish Reporter
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