US agency provides $ 307 million for local water projects



OHKAY OWINGEH PUEBLO, NM – The USDA has announced that it will issue up to $ 307 million in grants and low-interest loans to modernize rural water infrastructure.

The program covers less than 10,000 towns in 34 states and Puerto Rico territories.

Authorities made a presentation at the Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo wastewater treatment center north of Santa Fe. There, employees have been working to keep a dilapidated plant up and running for thousands of residents along Rio Grande.

Prior to a tour of a factory run by an indigenous people in New Mexico, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Birsak said in a statement, “All communities need a safe, reliable and up-to-date water and sewage system. That’s it. “

The announcement is part of President Joe Biden’s and his administration’s multilateral push to get more support for the $ 973 billion infrastructure package, including over $ 5 trillion in new spending.


Pueblo will receive a $ 610,000 loan and a $ 1.6 million grant to improve its wastewater treatment plant, which is part of its $ 4 million investment in the state. Federal officials say they will allow tribes to begin servicing more than 1,000 amputated inhabitants by treating 33% more water each day.

State and local grants will be required to complete the expansion of the wastewater treatment center, Bilsack said.

In the center of a small plant, a metal trough about 100 feet (30 meters) old, decades old, has rusted, and the metal is now dark orange. Factory workers said the device that mixes sewage and air to induce bacterial breakdown of waste is about a year away from rust.

Wastewater treatment plant manager Nelson Edmons told Billsack on a tour with Democrat Teresa Leger Fernandez, who serves the majority of Hispanic and Native American districts.


“The results of decades of reduced investment in physical infrastructure have had the greatest impact on color communities, which is why USDA is investing in water infrastructure in rural and tribal communities. Is most needed to rebuild better, stronger and more equitable than ever before.

Within some minority communities, Billsack has been the subject of criticism of how he handled discrimination complaints during his tenure as Secretary of Agriculture for the Obama administration.

An African-American farmer was angry with Biden’s appointment due to the unresolved surge in civil rights complaints. But in March, Billsack announced a program to allow color ranchers to borrow.

A coalition of Hispanic and Native American ranchers in New Mexico complained in 2015 that they were being discriminated against by the arbitrary revocation of grazing permits.


One of them blames the authorities for the death of his cow 10 years ago.

“I had to liquidate 250 animals overnight,” said Dave Sanchez, 61, of Chama, north of Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo.

He said during the Obama administration, Birsak declined many demands to address the concerns of a large group of ranchers in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado.

“We’re really disappointed with Billsack what he did under the Obama administration. I don’t know why he’s coming to New Mexico. He didn’t want to meet a Hispanic rancher. He didn’t want to meet me. We avoided them, “Sanchez said after learning of his visit on Tuesday.

“USDA takes discrimination complaints seriously and aims to ensure that all programs operate fairly,” agency spokeswoman Kate Waters said in a statement Wednesday.


Attanasio is a corps member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in the local newsroom to report on unreported issues. Follow Attanasio twitter..

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US agency provides $ 307 million for local water projects


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