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USDA Awards $1.5 Million in Grants to Rural Alaska Organizations

US Department of Agriculture

Over $1.5 million was awarded to Alaska organizations in the hopes of enhancing and improving life in rural Alaska communities. 

The US Department of Agriculture Rural Development Alaska announced the grants on Thursday.  The grants were divided into technical assistance and training grants and solid waste management grants. The technical assistance grants are used to identify solution to water and waste water disposal problems in rural areas.  The solid waste management grants are intended to provide multiple programs including specialized training, emergency response, and oil spill awareness.

USDA Rural Development Alaska state Director Jim Norlund says the $1.5 million was split among several different organizations.  $750,000 will be split between five groups for technical assistance and training and $827,800 will be split between five groups for solid waste management programs.

Norlund says the organizations must apply in order to be considered for the grants.

“They have to apply and they have to prove that they have the expertise and capabilities to provide this kind of training. Many of these grantees are repeat grantees because we’ve worked with them before, they’ve established a good track record. And they are familiar with the challenges with doing sanitation work in rural communities.”

Norlund says the USDA Rural Development supports these programs because they are particularly important for rural villages.  He says it’s all about safety.

“There’s a lot of moving parts in a water system, there’s filtration that has to be taken care of, there’s pipes that need to be maintained, there’s worry about freeze up of course. There’s a huge capital investment of millions of dollars sometimes that can be compromised if people are not properly trained to operate them and of course if the system is not operating properly then villages don’t have running water or don’t have appropriate solid waste disposal techniques.”

The recipients of the technical assistance and training grants are Alaska Native Tribal health Consortium, Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, Tanana Chiefs Conference, Zender Environmental Health and Research Group and the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council. Those receiving the solid waste management grants are Rural Alaska Community Action Program, Inc., Zender Environmental Health and Research Group, Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council, Tanana Chief’s Conference and the Alaska Forum on the Environment, Inc.

Executive director of the Alaska Forum on the Environment Kurt Eilo says his group applied back in December for the grant.

“You have to develop a work plan and budget documents, typical overall federal funds and grants.”

He says the Alaska Forum has been able to fund a solid waste management program for several years that trains landfill operators.

“So it’s a very focused specific training to help a person in a community who’s working in land fill operations making sure they have the knowledge to operate safely and give them some of the skills they need to work with what limited resources they might have in a village.”

Eilo says his program hosts training sessions for landfill operators in rural Alaska. The $75,800 the Alaska Forum received will go to pay for those safety sessions.