Agriculture Deputy Secretary Chuck Conner has announced over $1.7 million in funding for a wide range of projects for Oklahoma. Among the awards was a grant of nearly $500,000 to the Oklahoma-based National Rural Water Association and a loan and grant totaling over $660,000 to construct a new water system in Ellis County.

"These funds will be used to assist many rural communities to replace water system equipment, develop construction plans and extend their systems," said Conner. "This grant is especially timely given all that National Water Association members are doing to help restore water systems in the Gulf Region damaged by Hurricane Katrina."

Conner noted that the Bush administration is committed to improving community water systems and that as of 2002 (the most recent year information is available) 94 percent of all Americans were served by community water systems.

Conner was in Oklahoma to host the latest in a series of Farm Bill Forums.

Ellis County, Okla., will receive funding to install a new water system. The county will obtain a grant of $479,225 and a loan of $183,000 to construct a distribution system which includes new underground water lines, a storage tank and two wells. It will replace shallow, individual wells which provide water that is of poor quality and quantity.

In addition, an award of $100,000 in Community Facilities grant funds will go to the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma. Those funds will be used to rehabilitate two historic buildings and establish an academy to provide higher education and trade training courses.

The Texas County Housing Authority in the Oklahoma panhandle will receive an award of nearly $300,000 in a Mutual Self Help Housing Program grant. Under that program, families work together under the direction of a contractor to build their homes from the ground up. The process, which usually takes a year, enables families with limited incomes to move from rental housing into homes of their own.