USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager had a unique opportunity to see the many dynamic things happening in rural Maine communities during his visit earlier this month. Each of the projects he visited represented a different way in which USDA Rural Development’s Programs are playing valuable roles, providing a multitude of benefits, including renewable energy, business sustainability, job creation and retention, distance learning, and telemedicine.
For example, I joined the Under Secretary and the Northeast Region State Directors on a ferry to Vinalhaven, a remote island community 12 miles off the coast of Maine. Once there, we were greeted by Town Manager Marjorie Stratton, and led on tours of the Fox Islands Wind site by Fox Islands Wind CEO George Baker, and COO Bill Alcorn. The three immense wind turbines will generate about as much clean renewable wind power as the Fox Islands use, which is between 10 and 10.5 million kilowatt hours per year. USDA Rural Development provided funding support to make possible the total $14 million wind turbine project.
During his visit the Under Secretary also had the opportunity to tour the Sunbeam, a vessel which was docked in Rockland Harbor. The 75 foot boat visits four island communities twice a month, providing healthcare services via telemedicine technology onboard which is linked to mainland hospitals. The staff welcomed Under Secretary Tonsager and Northeast Region State Directors on board for a tour and to hear from the team first-hand how the ship impacts the lives of island residents every day.
While in Maine, Under Secretary for USDA Rural Development Dallas Tonsager also made a stop at Forage Market, in Lewiston to announce 10 Maine Rural Energy
for America Grant recipients in renewable energy systems and energy efficiency in Maine.
REAP Grant recipients from as far away as Van Buren (194 miles away) were on hand to meet the Under Secretary and to hear him announce funding for their farm or business. Under Secretary Tonsager said, “This visit to Forage Market is another example of how this Administration’s ‘all of the above’ approach to energy independence is making a real difference in improving the bottom line for America’s entrepreneurs. Every investment made in renewable and cost-effective alternatives will lessen our dependence on foreign sources of energy and improve the economy of these rural Maine communities.”
To find out how USDA Rural Development programs can benefit your community, click here.