USDA: During Earth Week, USDA celebrates critical infrastructure to combat climate change in rural Wisconsin

VIOLA, Wisc., April 19, 2022 – This week, in honor of Earth Day 2022, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development State Director in Wisconsin Julie Lassa, alongside other federal and local officials, today visited the Village of Viola to recognize critical infrastructure improvements to strengthen the health and livelihoods of nearly 700 rural residents. Improvements include safe access to clean water, sewer improvements to prevent backups during climate related incidents, and relocated roadways.

“Under the leadership of President Biden and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack, USDA is making it a priority to improve the lives of rural residents by making funding opportunities more equitable, investing in climate-smart infrastructure, and building a better economy,” Lassa said. “Projects like the one we’re highlighting in Viola today are a great testament to these priorities and the positive impacts they have on our state’s rural communities. We couldn’t be more excited to recognize these efforts in celebration of Earth Day this Friday.”

Known locally as the ‘Heart of the Kickapoo Valley’, the Village of Viola is home to nearly 700 rural residents, nearly 30 local businesses and several public and recreational services. Flowing through the heart of the village, the Kickapoo River has flooded the village several times between 2007 and 2019 due to inclement weather. This repeated flooding has resulted in water pump failure and sewer main backups in residences and businesses located within the floodplain.

USDA has made several investments over the past few years to help the village address these important issues. The community started their needs assessment with a $30,000 Special Evaluation Assistance for Rural Communities and Households (SEARCH) Grant through USDA in 2020 to help research and create a plan of action for water and wastewater improvements. In 2021, they were awarded $2.3 million in funding through USDA’s Water & Waste Disposal Loan and Grant program to implement the plan, including installing a new well and water distribution lines in resettlement areas where residential and commercial development is being relocated out of the floodplain. Sewer infrastructure improvements will also be made to prevent sewer backups and this project will also be done in partnership with a $1 million Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant. Finally, $655,000 in Community Facilities Disaster Grants, in partnership with more than $1 million in Tax Increment District Funding, will help to relocate residential and commercial roadway infrastructure out of the floodplain to the proposed resettlement site.

The projects highlighted in today’s visit are a great example of how USDA Rural Development is taking several actions to mitigate the impacts of climate change in rural communities. To learn more about USDA’s Water & Environmental Programs and Community Facilities Programs, please contact our Wisconsin State Office at 715-345-7635.

Today’s visit is also part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Rural Infrastructure Tour, during which Biden Administration officials are traveling to dozens of rural communities to talk about the impact of Bipartisan Infrastructure Law investments, as well as President Biden’s broader commitment to ensure federal resources reach all communities in rural America. To learn more, read about the Infrastructure Implementation Task Force and how USDA and other federal agencies are working with rural communities to deliver on the promise of support for rural America.

Under the Biden-Harris Administration, Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities, create jobs and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans living in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural, Tribal and high-poverty areas.