EPA awards $9 Million to Alaska Native Villages to Improve Drinking Water Access
Two Alaska Native villages will benefit from new WIIN Act funding
WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced water infrastructure funding totaling $9 million for projects that will improve access to drinking water for the Alaska Native Villages of Tuluksak and Stebbins. These grants illustrate the potential for EPA’s water infrastructure programs to benefit communities, especially low-income communities where investment is needed the most. Through strong partnerships at the state and local level, water infrastructure investments can provide vital public health and environmental protections, create jobs in construction and operation, while saving money.
“At EPA, we’re committed to improving water quality and to targeting funds to communities that need it most,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “This funding will improve public health by providing vital drinking water infrastructure for two Tribal communities in Alaska where access to clean drinking water is greatly needed.”
“Even before the pandemic, many rural and remote communities were challenged with limited or non-existent water and wastewater. With the onset of COVID-19, the simple act of washing one’s hands was taken for granted, but without reliable access to clean water, washing your hands is easier said than done. A recent fire in Tuluksak destroyed their only washeteria and water treatment facility, further complicating the issue and serving as a sad reminder of the basic infrastructure needs that must be addressed in rural Alaska,” said U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski. “Improving water and wastewater systems across the state has been a top priority in my role as an appropriator. I have worked hard to increase funding to the grant programs that benefit the state most including for our rural communities and remote villages. I commend the EPA for prioritizing access to safe, clean drinking water for Tuluksak and Stebbins. These significant investments in water infrastructure will not only improve the health and wellness of local residents, but also strengthen their economy and provide new job opportunities at a time when they are needed most. I remain committed to ensuring safe, clean water is available in every Alaskan community.”
“Most Americans can’t imagine living without clean running water or a flush toilet, but that is a reality for many Alaskans in some of our remote villages,” said U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan. “The investment announced today by the EPA is a large step in working to tackle this inequity that exists in our state. I worked closely with Alaskans and with the EPA to prioritize Alaska’s remote communities for the grant program I secured in the 2016 WIIN Act, and these awards for Alaska amount to nearly half of this year’s total allocation. This announcement is especially meaningful for the people of Tuluksak, whose washeteria tragically burned down in January. I look forward to the day Alaskans in Stebbins and Tuluksak can break ground on these critical infrastructure projects and secure a safe, reliable source of drinking water for their homes.”
The projects are funded under the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act’s Assistance for Small and Disadvantaged Communities Grant program. EPA will award $1.5 million to the Alaska Native village of Tuluksak, a community of approximately 360 people, which had its only source of potable drinking water destroyed in a fire earlier this year. Combined with Indian Health Service funding, EPA’s WIIN grant will be used to fully fund the replacement facilities.
EPA will also award $7.5 million to Stebbins, a community of approximately 650 people. The village currently does not have a centralized drinking water or wastewater system. The $7.5 million in funding will provide a sustainable water source for the community by providing piped water service to the unserved homes in Stebbins. The water source and raw water line will provide service to the existing water treatment plant and washeteria.
More information: https://www.epa.gov/tribaldrinkingwater/wiin-act-section-2104-assistance-small-and-disadvantaged-communities-tribal
The 2016 Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN Act) addresses, supports, and improves the nation’s drinking water infrastructure. Included in the WIIN Act are three new drinking water grants that promote public health and the protection of the environment. In November 2020, EPA announced that the Agency would prioritize 100% of FY20 funding to Tribal drinking water projects or activities, specifically in Tribal communities lacking access to safe drinking water. EPA plans to make additional announcements about these funds over the coming months.