A campground and a program to train utility workers are the final two projects to receive funding from a $30 million federal appropriation aimed at helping Eastern Kentucky replace lost coal jobs.
U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers and the state Energy and Environment Cabinet announced the grants Tuesday.
Breathitt County Fiscal Court received preliminary approval for a $1.95 million grant to help develop a campground for its project to promote elk-viewing as a tourist attraction, according to a news release.
The project will include trails for horses and off-road vehicles and primitive and developed camping.
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Rogers also announced preliminary approval of a $1.15 million grant to Hazard Community and Technical College for a program to train people to maintain utility substations and operate drones and cranes. The program will be a the HCTC facility in Leslie County.
The grants finished out the first round of applications under a program Rogers pushed to fund pilot projects aimed at creating jobs in places that have been hurt by a sharp drop in coal jobs. About two-thirds of the coal jobs in Eastern Kentucky have disappeared since 2011.
“We are actively investing in the revival of coal country by opening new doors of opportunity for job creation, tourism and innovation across the region,” said Rogers, a Republican who represents Eastern and Southern Kentucky.
Congress approved $90 million for the program in 2016, with Kentucky getting $30 million of that. West Virginia and Pennsylvania each received $30 million as well.
The largest Kentucky grant under that initial appropriation was $12.5 million for the Appalachian Wildlife Center under development in Bell County, according to the Energy and Environment Cabinet. Plans for the facility include elk-viewing, a conservation center, wildlife exhibits, hiking trails and other attractions. Officials hope it will become a signature tourist attraction for the region.
The second-largest grant under the initial $30 million was $5 million for a building at the Marion Branch Industrial Park in Pike County.
Other projects approved under the first round of funding were $2.5 million for a job-training program in Paintsville; $2.55 million to help develop a wood-pellet factory in Harlan County; $1.95 million to develop a rail trail in Floyd County; $1.9 million for a campground and recreation area in Magoffin County; and $500,000 for an outdoor adventure park in Clay County, according to the Energy and Environment Cabinet.
Rogers worked to set aside $100 million in the second year of the program, with Kentucky to get $25 million. The period to apply for grants from that pot recently opened. Applications forms are available at AMLPILOT or by calling Bob Scott at (502)782-6761 or emailing him at BobF.Scott@ky.gov.
Scott is director of the Kentucky Division of Abandoned Mine Lands, which is administering the program.
Proposed federal funding for the pilot projects in the next federal budget is $75 million. If that is approved, Kentucky would get $25 million, according to Rogers’ office.