Rural Water Projects:

Federal Assistance Criteria and Potential Benefits of the Proposed Lewis and Clark Project

T-RCED-99-252: Published: Jul 29, 1999. Publicly Released: Jul 29, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the Lewis and Clark Rural Water Project, focusing on: (1) federal assistance criteria for rural water projects and; (2) potential benefits of rural water projects such as Lewis and Clark.

GAO noted that: (1) regarding federal assistance criteria for rural water projects, GAO's work looked at three programs; (2) these were the Rural Utilities Service Program of the Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) of the Department of the Interior; (3) GAO found that the USDA and EPA programs had specific criteria that a proposed water project must meet to be considered for funding and that none of the three projects GAO examined, including the Lewis and Clark project, had characteristics that met all of the criteria of any one of the programs; (4) GAO further found that while BOR did not have a formal program and, thus, did not have formal criteria, it did have a long-standing policy on reimbursement for its contributions to projects with which none of the three proposed projects-again including Lewis and Clark-could comply; (5) regarding potential benefits of rural water projects, GAO's work, using Lewisand Clark as the example, found that the local water users, such as households and business would receive most of the benefits of the project, which could include higher personal incomes and improved lifestyles; and (6) while the federal government would realize only minimal financial benefits, the project would benefit the federal government to the extent that it will be a means of achieving public policy objectives.

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