IA, SD, and MN congressional members call for Lewis & Clark Regional Water System funding


The Republican earmark ban in the House is putting completion of the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System at risk. The system, intended to provide potable water to southwestern Minnesota, northwestern Iowa and eastern South Dakota, is essential for the region’s sustainability.

Three weeks ago, Kevin Diaz reported in Earmarks ban may sink state projects:

For towns like Worthington, in southwestern Minnesota, a new congressional ban on “earmarks,” which could dry up funding for the Lewis and Clark regional water co-op, would be the worst-case scenario. . .

the multi-state Lewis and Clark project, a massive, $542 million waterworks that will pipe safe drinking water from the Missouri River aquifer to hundreds of thousands of residents in drought-prone towns like Worthington and spur businesses like the 2,500-employee Swift pork processing plant.

Losing the project “would be devastating,” said Troy Larson, executive director of the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System, which Congress authorized a decade ago to serve the dry prairies of western Minnesota, eastern South Dakota and northern Iowa. Among the project’s champions are fiscal conservatives like U.S. Rep Steve King, R-Iowa. Local communities in the tri-state area have already ponied up $153 million.

Minnesota senators Franken and Klobuchar and Congressman Tim Walz have joined a bipartisan group of legislators to ask to OMB to fund the economically vital project, according to a press release from South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson.

The press release from Johnson’s office and the text of the letter:

The Midwest Congressional delegation this week called on the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to provide in Fiscal Year 2012 the highest-possible level of funding for the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System, an under-construction water system that will serve rural communities in Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota. The budget for the 2011 Fiscal Year (FY10) allotted only $2 million for the project, a level that will not allow it to award new construction contracts and will not cover the cost of inflation.

“If the project were to remain at the enacted FY10 funding level, Lewis & Clark estimates the system would not be completed until 2048. That is simply too long for our citizens to wait for something as simple as clean water,” the letter reads. “OMB must lead the way in making sure that this project is a priority, otherwise the investment already made by taxpayers and state and local partners will be in jeopardy.”

When completed, the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System will provide treated water to 300,000 people in its member municipalities and rural water systems in Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota.