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alaska native tribal health consortium

Alaska Native “Strike Force” Community Observes Earth Day with Improved Water Service

The rural Native village of Kasaan is located in Southeast Alaska and is nearly 700 miles north of Seattle. Earth Day 2013 highlighted USDA Rural Development’s efforts to improve environmental and health conditions in rural Alaskan communities.  Part of that effort is the successful completion of the Kasaan Water Project.

Secretary Tom Vilsack announced funding of the project in the summer of 2011.  The funding was provided through USDA’s Rural Alaska Village Grant (RAVG) program. The project is another successful culmination in the partnerships between USDA, the State of Alaska, the Indian Health Service and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC).  The new infrastructure was put into operation after a final inspection on March 20th.

USDA Funding Brings Clean Water, Sanitation, Into the Rural Village Homes of Alaska Natives

The thought of having to hand-carry a honey bucket, (a five gallon pail filled with human waste) out of your house and dump it to an outdoor common collection container in winter temperatures that drop to -55 °F, is an unpleasant scenario. For some residents in the community of Lower Kalskag, and other rural Alaskan communities, this is a reality.  They have no indoor plumbing, and no indoor hot or cold running water.

The community of Lower Kalskag, Alaska, is remotely located 350 miles west of Anchorage in a persistent poverty area. This small, predominantly Alaska Native community has a population of around 280 and roughly fifty percent of its homes still lack adequate sanitation systems. The lack of sanitation services is a dire health and safety issue faced daily by a number of rural Alaska residents.

Thanks to USDA, Rural Alaskan Native Villages are Receiving Safe Water for the First Time

Many communities in remote rural Alaska are only accessible by plane or boat and essentially inaccessible during the long, hard winters. They lag far behind the lower 48 states in having safe and dependable drinking water and suitable waste disposal systems available.  The Rural Alaska Village Grant (RAVG) program supports the development and construction of water and wastewater systems to correct dire health and sanitation conditions in those villages. I had the recent opportunity to accompany USDA Water and Environmental Program RAVG Manager Tasha Deardorff and other program partners on site visits of two such remote rural communities to check the status of current projects.

It’s nearly 400 miles from Anchorage to Bethel, the regional hub.  Our first destination from Bethel was the remote Native village of Toksook  Bay some 114 miles away.  We were greeted by a resident who transported us via four-wheeler  (all terain vehicle) to the city office.

USDA Announces Streamlining of Program to Improve Water Quality in Alaska Rural Villages

Yesterday, USDA Rural Development in the State of Alaska hosted the official signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Rural Alaska Village grant (RAVG) program partners.  The MOU partners, which include the State of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (SOA DEC), Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC), and the Indian Health Service (IHS), are essential in the continued effort to bring safe water and waste systems to rural Alaskan communities.