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USDA invests $288M in rural Missouri infrastructure projects

  

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing in rural Missouri’s critical infrastructure, from electricity and broadband to water systems, through more than $288 million in investments across the state. 

Local water and sewer systems will benefit from the Water and Waste Water Disposal Loan and Grant Program, while six electric cooperatives are set to receive funds through USDA’s Electric Loan Program. USDA Rural Development Missouri State Director Kyle Wilkens said the investment would have long-lasting economic benefits for the Show-Me State.

“Infrastructure is more than just laying pipes in the ground and wires on poles,” Wilkens said. “By investing in modern infrastructure, Rural Development is investing in the lives of rural Missourians. This infrastructure helps ensure our small towns have the best access possible to clean drinking water, good-paying jobs, and high-speed internet, which all help to boost rural economies and build back a better America.”

Sac-Osage Electric Cooperative was approved for more than $50 million in loans to install and operate 2,302 miles of fiber internet infrastructure in southwest Missouri. 

Electric cooperatives have been at the forefront of Missouri’s rural broadband fight for years, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic moved more and more of everyday life online. 

“Co-ops know more than any other organization how important broadband is to rural Missouri,” Caleb Jones, executive vice president and CEO of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives (AMEC), previously told The Missouri Times. “It’s the future of economic development and success in rural Missouri, and we’re dedicated to working together to make sure Missouri can continue to be successful.”

Associated Electric Cooperative in Springfield was approved for a $78 million loan to improve its electric generation systems. 

Ozark Border Electric Cooperative — which serves 11 counties, including Poplar Bluff — will use a $53 million loan to connect 2,160 members and construct and enhance 403 miles of line. It will also invest in grid improvements. 

Three Rivers Electric will bolster 151 miles of line with a $25 million loan, while Howell-Oregon Electric was approved to spend $50 million on 90 miles of line. Three Rivers and Howell-Oregon were also approved to invest in smart grid upgrades for their service areas. 

Crawford Electric will put $30 million toward building and reenforcing 124 miles of line serving nearly 1,400 members. 

The city of Matthews received a $1.2 million loan and a $600,000 grant to enhance its water production and distribution systems, including new water meters and well controls. 

Laclede County’s first water supply district was awarded a $300,000 loan to rehabilitate storage tanks and electronically map the city’s water distribution system, among other upgrades. 

The investments are part of a nationwide allotment unveiled this week. USDA committed $5.2 billion to rural infrastructure projects in 46 states and Puerto Rico to align with the Biden administration’s economic priorities. 

Massive investments in Missouri’s infrastructure are on their way as touted by President Joe Biden in Missouri last week. 

The state is expected to see $100 million for broadband infrastructure and $99 million over five years to expand its electric vehicle (EV) charging network from the massive federal infrastructure package signed into law last month. 

Missouri is also slated to receive about $866 million for improvements to the state’s water infrastructure.