Millions of federal dollars heading to Doddridge County to improve water infrastructure

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DODDRIDGE COUNTY, W.Va. (WDTV) -- West Union serves as the Doddridge County seat, but it also is home to a majority of residents in the county on a public water system.

80% of Doddridge County residents rely on alternatives to public water such as wells (pictured) and springs. Millions of federal dollars are now coming to the county to help improve water infrastructure. (Photo: WDTV)

80% of residents in the mostly rural county rely on alternatives including wells, springs and cisterns for their drinking water source.

County officials have made a push in recent years to change that and expand the offering of public water -- A challenge in rural communities.

Since Friday, two federal agencies announced investment projects in Doddridge County to improve water infrastructure.

The Department of Commerce on Friday announced a grant of $962,000 to the Doddridge County Public Service District.

The grant will provide water service at a 50-acre commercial site. In a press release, officials said that project will create 40 jobs and is needed to support the region's natural gas production. It added the grant will be matched with $962,000 in local investment.

“Providing developable land outside of the floodplain in Doddridge County will ensure that businesses can withstand and quickly recover in the event of future floods," said U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Dr. John Fleming.

The Department of Agriculture on Monday announced a 2.6 million dollar grant that will expand the PSD's reach to 118 more customers.

The USDA's grant to Doddridge County is part of a $135 million investment to improve rural water infrastructure in 24 states. Hardy County also received grant money.

David Kimball is on the board for the Doddridge County PSD and noted the challenges facing rural communities when it comes to providing public water to residents.

"It's pretty expensive," Kimball said. "Maybe you have to go a mile or so just to get water to the people before you can actually start serving them. It's an expensive proposition."

The PSD last year broke ground on a project that provided water to the Doddridge County Park.

The latest grant from the USDA, coupled with help from the County Commission, Kimball said. will help expand service further to Blandville.

“Modernizing water infrastructure will yield key health benefits and help spur economic growth – making rural places even more attractive to live and work,” said USDA Rural Utilities Service Administrator Chad Rupe.

The project includes 55,750 linear feet of 8-inch and smaller diameter water lines, a storage tank, booster pump station and 94 water meters, according to a press release from the USDA.

“USDA Rural Development is pleased to be involved in these
projects that will increase the quality of life for our residents of rural West Virginia," said USDA Rural Development West Virginia State Director Kris Warner. "For our communities to thrive, we must have access to infrastructure such as water, wastewater, and broadband that will energize opportunities for growth.”

The hope for local officials is to use this project as another springboard to expand coverage even further around the county.

The ultimate goal is to increase the percentage of residents on public water from its current 20 percent clip.

"We're hoping by 2030 - we'd like to have at least 70 percent," Kimball said. "I have a feeling that'd be hard to obtain. That's our goal. That's what we're shooting for. It's ambitious. "We're going to have to stay aggressive and try to get funding. The County Commission has been wonderful. By being proactive and giving us money upfront, that helps us get other loans and grants."