MUD awarded $10M for gas main overhaul in Omaha.

The United States Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has provided a $10 million grant to the Metropolitan Utilities District (MUD) in Omaha, Nebraska. The two-decade-long effort to replace the Omaha area’s aging 560 miles of natural gas mains will receive this much-needed boost to fund the final 130 miles.

MUD is a publicly-owned utility that provides natural gas and water to the Omaha area. Since 2008, the utility has replaced up to 40 miles of gas main a year, and their 2023 budget had set aside $24 million for necessary repairs. MUD President Mark Doyle and Board Chair Tanya Cook expressed their hopes that the federal funds would help the utility make additional progress this year. “We’re trying to keep up with that,” said Doyle. “When you think about the Omaha metro area, 40 miles is a lot of building,” he added. Cook said MUD was “excited to put this grant funding to work.”

The federal government has additionally awarded another $200,000 replacing outdated gas mains to the Village of Stuart in north-central Nebraska. The village has its own natural gas utility, and this grant will greatly improve its service to Stuart at a lower cost to ratepayers. US Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb, joined Governor Jim Pillen in celebrating the grants. Fischer and US Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb, were the only two members of Nebraska’s congressional delegation to vote in support of the bipartisan infrastructure bill that provided the federal grant funds. Fischer and Bacon had faced criticism at the time for supporting the bill, even from former President Donald Trump. Both of them defended their votes by stating that millions of much-needed investments in roads, bridges, broadband, and pipelines would come to Nebraska.

Fischer said, “it’s important that we don’t forget any corner in Nebraska.” She emphasized the significance of pipelines as part of what connects communities. “We need to be able to make those connections continue. We need to make sure those investments continue.” Federal officials have provided grants for 35 communities in 20 states in the first round of grants so far. Both Nebraska recipients and utilities in other communities will be eligible to apply for subsequent rounds of funding, said Deputy PHMSA Administrator Tristan Brown.

Brown stated that the aim of these grants will help communities avoid the tragedies that happen when aging gas mains leak or break. MUD President Mark Doyle also believes in this goal, and he had previously carried broken pieces of cast-iron pipe when trying to convince MUD board members of the need for replacements. Most of the cast-iron pipe that MUD will be replacing is located in older parts of east Omaha, and some sections of the utility’s cast-iron pipes date back to the 1800s. Governor Pillen said that a “strong, vibrant, current, and growing infrastructure is a key for our state to grow.”

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