Buckeye Rural Electric lands $19 million USDA loan to improve service in Athens County

Rio Grande, Ohio-based Buckeye Rural Electric is among cooperatives in 10 states that will receive more than $181 million to upgrade systems and equipment, according to USDA Ohio Rural Development State Director David L. Hall.

Athens County is one of the counties where upgrades will occur.

“For more than 80 years now, USDA has been proud to partner with member-owned cooperatives like Buckeye Rural Electric as they work to rebuild and expand essential infrastructure in America’s heartland,” Hall said in a news release.

Buckeye Rural Electric will use its $19.7 million loan to build and improve nearly 100 miles of line that will serve 600 new customers, the release said. Buckeye also is investing $327,000 in smart-grid technologies designed to increase system resilience, safety and efficiency.

Buckeye serves more than 18,600 members covering more than 2,600 miles of line in Athens, Gallia, Jackson, Lawrence, Meigs, Pike, Ross, Scioto and Vinton counties.

In addition to the Ohio project, USDA is helping finance 11 other projects in Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin through its Electric Loan Program. The funding will help build and improve 1,354 miles of line and includes $7.7 million for smart-rid technologies nationwide, the news release stated.

Congress appropriated $5.5 billion for USDA’s Electric Loan Program in fiscal year 2019.

In April 2017, the release said, President Donald Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to leverage opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force, according to the release.

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs 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 areas.

Click here to read the original story in the Athens News.