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USDA Rural Development celebrates Earth Day in Kentucky with a Tree Planting Ceremony and Funding Announcement for a Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrade

By Katherine Belcher, USDA Rural Development Public Information Coordinator

Tom Fern, State Director for USDA Rural Development in Kentucky, was in Monticello, Ky., on Thursday to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day by planting Dogwood trees and announcing with Mayor Kenneth Catron a $7.1 million loan and grant for an upgrade to the city’s wastewater treatment plant.  Funding is provided through USDA Rural Development’s water and environmental program.

The wastewater system improvement project will upgrade the plant to meet Kentucky requirements and also improve the water quality of nearby Elk Spring Creek.

“Earth Day calls on all of us to do our part to create a cleaner, safer environment, and today we celebrate a project that will produce a cleaner, safer wastewater collection system for the residents of Wayne County,” said Fern. “The many upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant will improve residents’ health and wellness and overall quality of life.”

There were many special guests in attendance, including Donna McClure from U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell’s office; Regina Crawford from U.S. Senator Jim Bunning’s office; Lanette Girdler from U.S. Representative Hal Rogers’ office and State Representative Ken Upchurch. Also joining in the festivities were local business and community leaders, bankers, engineers and emergency responders.

“We really appreciate the great working relationship we have with Rural Development and the people of Wayne County are grateful for the many wonderful projects they have made possible in this community,” said Mayor Catron.

Monticello’s wastewater treatment plant serves more than 2,500 customers in rural Wayne County, one of Kentucky’s persistent poverty counties and part of the Appalachian chain.

In Observance of Earth Day, USDA Rural Development staff participated in a tree planting in Monticello, Ky., on Thursday. Those pictured include, from left, Vernon Brown, RD Utilities program director; Robert Dunn, RD Community Programs Specialist; Mayor Kennth Catron; RD State Director Tom Fern; Lanette Girdler from U.S. Representative Hal Rogers’ office; and Barry Turner, RD Loan Specialist.

An Exciting Project with Many Active Partners

Written by Sam Cuenca, District Wildlife Biologist, Region 5 Naturewatch Coordinator, Scott Salmon River Ranger District

In 1999, Yreka High School in Yreka, California received funds from a Forest Service Grant (Partners in Flight Program) to enhance their agriculture and natural resource program and provide wildlife habitat on school grounds. These funds were used to build a songbird garden, purchase fencing, materials for an irrigation system, and a greenhouse structure. The students and instructors constructed the fence, irrigation system and the greenhouse.

The Songbird Garden Portion of the Yreka Community was funded by Partners in Flight Program.

The Songbird Garden Portion of the Yreka Community was funded by Partners in Flight Program.

Then in the spring of 2009, the Siskiyou Gardens, Parks and Greenway Association (SGPGA) partnered with Yreka High School to develop a community garden and greenhouse. The Yreka Garden Club also agreed to help maintain the greenhouse in exchange for growing space. These organizations along with a number of community volunteers pulled their enthusiasm and resources together to make this project a reality. In a few short months they leveled the site, built the raised beds, fixed the fence and irrigation system, and started thousands of seedlings inside the greenhouse. Much of the heavy work was donated by members of the California Conservation Corps and some materials were donated by local businesses.

The success of this community garden is the result of many enthusiastic volunteers. Approximately 25 beds were constructed as well as a flower beds to attract pollinators.

The success of this community garden is the result of many enthusiastic volunteers. Approximately 25 beds were constructed as well as a flower beds to attract pollinators.

Abundant harvests are shared amongst gardeners and community service programs.

Abundant harvests are shared amongst gardeners and community service programs.

The grand opening of this People’s Garden was May 3, 2009.  Festivities included a ribbon-cutting ceremony, old-time music, a plant sale, and gardening workshops. The garden was teeming with enthusiasm through the summer, and by September many hundreds of pounds of fruit and vegetables were ready to be harvested and donations were made to Yreka Senior Center, Yreka Hospice, Grange Hall Community Hot Meals Program, and Yreka Community Food Bank.  Through these organizations produce was made available to an estimated 300-350 people. Six workshops were held here on topics related to gardening, greenhouses, starting seed, and food preservation.

This spring and summer the Yreka Community Garden will be hold free classes on permiculture, greenhouse plantings, composting and mulching, and canning.

Special thanks goes to their partners!

Members of the California Conservation Corps (CCC) volunteered their services for a variety of work including clean up, construction of the raised beds and setting fresh gravel in the greenhouse.

The Ford Family Foundation Leadership Training Group is sponsoring the construction of an outdoor classroom/gazebo. This structure is a special project led by a local leadership training class which has been fund-raising for this project for 7 months.  This project has received much support from local contributors including Rotary Club and in kind contributions from local contractors.

The Yreka Community Garden will also be developing a Children’s Garden that will feature educational planting beds, small water fountain/bird bath, butterfly garden, willow tunnel, native American cedar plank house, and benches and paths. This is being developed by an active community group including U.S. Forest Service biologists, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists, local teachers, child development specialists, and local gardeners. Grants are being applied for to fund this aspect of the Yreka Community Garden.

Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager Observes Earth Day by Announcing Water System Funding in Rural Colorado

Written by Amy Mund,  Public Information Coordinator USDA Rural Development-Colorado

Agriculture Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager joined Colorado Rural Development State Director Jim Isgar in Woodland Park earlier this week to celebrate Earth Day.  Tranquil Acres Water Supply, a small rural community of 60 users received $564,700 in USDA water and environmental program loan and grant funding to help repair existing water lines and to upgrade the system.  The entity has been facing severe reliability issues for several years because the original system was placed too shallow for the area.  Several board members attended as well as representatives from Senator Udall and Senator Bennet’s offices.

Homeowners present at the event noted they are excited that once the system is operational, they will not have leaking, freezing pipes to deal with and others will have the opportunity to hook up to the system.  The entity hopes to break ground in July 2010.

Pictured (left to right) is John Dover, honorary utility board member, Ron Weien, Board President and Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager.
Pictured (left to right) is John Dover, honorary utility board member, Ron Weien, Board President and Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager.

Wastewater Plant Expansion Project to Improve the Water Quality of Delaware’s Inland Bays

Photos and blog courtesy of Kathy Beisner, Public Information Coordinator, Delaware

It was my pleasure to join Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, Delaware Senator Tom Carper and a host of Federal, State and area dignitaries including Michael Scuse, Deputy Under Secretary  of the USDA Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services; Rural Development State Director Jack Tarburton, Kathy Bunting Howarth, Director Division of Water Resources for the State of Delaware and Vance Phillips, President  of Sussex County Council at a groundbreaking ceremony for a project that will improve the water quality of the Inland Bays by expanding a wastewater treatment plant.  After the expansion is completed, over 2500 onsite septic systems will be eliminated.

The $15 million project not only will improve water quality, it will provide jobs for the employees of a local construction company. Much of the funding is from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed into law by President Obama just over a year ago.  Additional funding comes from USDA Rural Development regular water and environmental program funds and from the State of Delaware.  Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the funding for the project yesterday, Earth Day.

Senator Tom Carper and Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan agree on the Boy Scout's motto ... Leave a place better than you found it. (Center of Photo, State Director Jack Tarburton.
Senator Tom Carper and Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan agree on the Boy Scout’s motto … Leave a place better than you found it. (Center of Photo, State Director Jack Tarburton.)

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan throws the largest shovel of dirt at the ground breaking ceremony for the Inland Bays Wastewater Treatment Plant expansion. Pictured left to right: Vance Phillips, President Sussex County Council; Michael Scuse, Deputy Under Secretary Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services; Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan; Jack Tarburton, USDA Rural Development Maryland/Delaware State Director; Senator Tom Carper; and Kathy Bunting Howarth, Director Division of Water Resources DNREC.
Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan throws the largest shovel of dirt at the ground breaking ceremony for the Inland Bays Wastewater Treatment Plant expansion. Pictured left to right: Vance Phillips, President Sussex County Council; Michael Scuse, Deputy Under Secretary Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services; Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan; Jack Tarburton, USDA Rural Development Maryland/Delaware State Director; Senator Tom Carper; and Kathy Bunting Howarth, Director Division of Water Resources DNREC.

Rural Development in Tennessee Observes Earth Day by Planting Trees, Purifying Drinking Water

Planting trees is a very traditional way to celebrate Earth Day. Over the years the trees grow up to do many good things for the environment; filter water runoff before pollutants slip into streams, supply the oxygen we breathe and even reduce energy bills by cooling homes and businesses with their shade. Read more »

Rural Development is now on Twitter!

USDA Rural Development can now be found on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/USDARD. By following us you will receive updates with the latest information about Rural Development’s mission areas, including more than 40 housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs.  This is account is intended to widen our communication and outreach to the online community, and provide the public with the most current information on rural events, programs, success stories, answers to commonly asked questions, and more.

Follow us today as Rural Development celebrates the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day.  Rural Development is planning over 40 activities, led by Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager, who will be in Woodland Park, Colorado, to participate in an event marking the use of funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to improve drinking water quality in a subdivision. Curtis Wiley will represent the department in Cochiti Pueblo, New Mexico at a dedication ceremony for a new water system.

Rural Development will also join 17 other USDA agencies today at the USDA Earth Day Festival in the People’s Garden located on the USDA Whitten Building grounds on the National Mall – 12th and Jefferson Drive.  There will be live entertainment, a truck farm, a working water system demonstration, and numerous children’s activities as well as exhibits.  USDA’s Earth Day Festival will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.   We hope to see you there!