USDA’s Rural Development invests $60.5 million Belmont County

Shale oil boom sparks federal agency’s largest commitment in Ohio

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Belmont County cattle

ST. CLAIRSVILLE, Ohio — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development agency is investing nearly $60.5 million — the single largest dollar obligation in Ohio Rural Development history — to modernize and improve rural water service in Belmont County.

Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett made the announcement Aug. 17 during her trip to Ohio.

USDA is providing the funding — a $45.5 million direct loan combined with a $15 million grant — through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant program. It can be used to finance drinking water, stormwater drainage and waste disposal systems for rural communities with 10,000 or fewer residents.

Funds will help build a new, 6-million gallon-per-day water treatment plant and a new administration building with laboratory. The water system also will benefit from technical upgrades such as state-of-the-art meter reading and water-quality monitoring.

Countywide system

The Belmont County Water System encompasses more than 500 miles of water lines. In addition to the 9,700 rural residents it directly serves, the system provides water to 23,300 residents through wholesale agreements with the villages of Belmont, Bethesda, Flushing, New Athens, Bellaire, and Morristown, along with the city of St. Clairsville, and the Tri-County Water Authority area of Jefferson County.

Shale oil connection

Belmont County has garnered national media attention as the potential location of a multi-billion-dollar natural gas ethane, or cracker, plant near Dilles Bottom, Ohio. This water improvement project will serve as the platform for Belmont County to absorb new demands for future development.

Other Ohio projects

On Aug. 14, the Rural Development agency also announced a package that includes $2.2 million in loans and a grant of $1.87 million to extend water lines in the Lake Milton region of Mahoning County.

Another Ohio project in the Scioto River area, coordinated by the Earnhart Hill Regional Water & Sewer District, received $1 million in loans and a $675,000 Rural Development grant to upgrade the district’s wastewater treatment plant.

These two projects were part of an announcement of more than $124 million to improve rural water infrastructure in 23 states.

Infrastructure focus

In Fiscal Year 2018, Congress provided a historic level of funding for water and wastewater infrastructure. The 2018 omnibus spending bill includes $5.2 billion for USDA loans and grants, up from $1.8 billion in FY 2017.

Eligible rural communities and water districts can apply online for funding to maintain, modernize or build water and wastewater systems. They can visit the interactive RD Apply tool, or they can apply through one of USDA Rural Development’s state or field offices. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.

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