Sen. Murkowski Urges Obama Administration to Streamline Village Safe Water Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is urging the Obama Administration to streamline the Village Safe Water Program’s grant-making process.
Murkowski met Thursday with Dallas Tonsager, U.S. Department of Agriculture  Under Secretary of Rural Development, on the issue and followed up today with a letter to Tonsager.
“The current process is clearly not working, as evidenced by the large unobligated balances in the rural water funds,” Murkowski wrote. “I am committed to seeing this change. The Village Safe Water Program is too important, and the need is too great, to allow government bureaucracy – whether on the state or federal level – to impede progress.
Several federal agencies, including the Indian Health Service, USDA Rural Development and the Environmental Protection Agency, are involved in working with  Alaska’s Village Safe Water Program to finance the construction of water and wastewater facilities in the state’s rural communities and native villages.
Over time, the agencies involved with the program have developed separate grant processes that have significantly slowed the delivery of federal funds. The State of Alaska estimates that there is $940 million in projects that need to be funded in rural Alaska.
Murkowski proposed that her staff and USDA staff meet during August to explore the legislative and administrative options to simplify and improve the current process. She suggested that staff from the State of Alaska, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, the Indian Health Service and the Environmental Protection Agency water programs join those discussions.
Streamlining the grant-making process, she added, would “move individual projects forward and accelerate the delivery of federal aid into our villages.”