January 2, 2008 Edition

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NEA Water Authority
approved for grant

The Northeast Arkansas Water Authority was among those named when the Delta Regional Authority announced its grants for 2007 recently. The DRA's grant program is an integral part of its efforts to improve the lives of those who live in 240 counties and parishes in parts of Arkansas along with Alabama, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.

Through the program, $300,000 was awarded to the Northeast Arkansas Public Water Authority for water treatment and distribution system improvements for Alicia, Hoxie, Walnut Ridge and the surrounding area.

"I want to thank those at the local development districts across the region for being our troops on the ground," said Pete Johnson of Clarksdale, Miss., the DRA's federal co-chairman. "They're responsible for ensuring that we receive quality applications each year."

Once grant applications were submitted by the development districts, the federal co-chairman determines which applications are eligible for funding and which applications are ineligible. There's an appeals process for those applicants whose submissions are deemed ineligible.

From the list of eligible applicants, the governors of the eight states make recommendations to the full DRA board. The nine-member board consists of Johnson and the eight governors. The board decides which projects are funded based on the amount of money available in the program.

Congress has mandated that transportation and basic public infrastructure projects must receive at least 50 percent of the appropriated funds. The authority's grants may act as matching funds for other federal and state programs.

The areas of emphasis for funding from the DRA grant program include basic public infrastructure in distressed counties; transportation infrastructure for the purpose of facilitating economic development; business development with an emphasis on entrepreneurship; and job training with an emphasis on existing public education institutions.

"Our governors do an outstanding job of recommending quality projects to the board," Johnson said. "These grants allow us to leverage funds from other federal agencies, state governments, local governments and the private sector. I also want to thank the congressional delegations of our eight states for leading the fight each year to ensure these funds are appropriated."

The Economist magazine has described the DRA as an agency "mostly staffed by people who live in the region and are eager to see changes. Its express purpose is to coordinate projects with the relevant states and to cut through red tape."

Johnson said the federal-state partnership provides a unified voice for the region. "We view ourselves as a regional advocate, planner and coordinator," he said. "We have numerous programs to improve the lives of the people we serve. We're working to address the causes of poverty rather than merely treating the symptoms. The creation of permanent, private-sector jobs is the most cost-effective method of eliminating poverty. The public investments we make are necessary to support the needs of private enterprise."

The NEAPWA received a check for $6,700,000 in April of 2007. The Public Water Authority was created in early 2003 to develop a long-range plan to treat and distribute water to communities in Lawrence County and other areas of northeast Arkansas.

The communities that will initially be served include Alicia, Hoxie, Walnut Ridge and a portion of the Lawrence County Regional Water District.

The new treatment plant will be capable of producing 3,000,000 gallons of water per day and have an onsite well for water storage. It will replace outdated treatment systems, many of which rely on ground water produced from shallow wells and are more than 40 years old. The water treatment plant, which will serve approximately 8,000, is expected to be in full production by summer of 2009.

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