Keloland Television reports in After Two Decades, Lewis & Clark Delivers Water:
The hum of a new motor pumping water is a sound that Red Arndt has waited decades to hear.
Arndt is the chairman of the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System board. The project that started in 1990 flipped the switch Monday and started pumping water to 11 communities.
"We had our groundbreaking and we started construction and that was in 2003. Now in 2012, we're starting to deliver water which is unbelievable. This is really great," Arndt said.
Arndt is from Luverne and joined the project in 1990 when pumping treated Missouri River water to communities in Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota was just an idea.
Even though Luverne is not one of the 11 communities that started receiving water Monday, he is still proud that Lewis and Clark is now delivering water more than two decades after the project started.
How long before Luverne and the remaining cities turn on the taps? KTIV reports in Much of Siouxland will wait for Lewis & Clark water:
Most other Siouxland communities will have to wait for their taste though. Places like Hull, Sibley, Sioux Center and Sheldon, in Iowa, may not see water from the new system for years.
Auen says that's because congress doesn't see the system as a high priority. So, the project lacks the nearly $200 million of federal funding needed to build 200 miles of pipeline. Right now, they've secured a drop in the bucket, just $4.5 million.
Auen says they could get more in fiscal year 2013, but wont know for months.
"Traditionally Congress, for the last five or six years, they've not passed a budget in a timely fashion. So, it could be as late as January or February of next year until we know," said Auen.
But it's not just passing a budget, but the end of earmarks. Earlier in July, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported:
A 2011 ban on Congressional earmarks eliminated a tool LCRW proponents in Congress had regularly used in the past to get around austere federal budgets for rural water projects and keep enough construction money coming to LCRW to make meaningful progress toward completing it. Without recourse to that, after Rock Rapids is hooked up, communities like Madison and Worthington and Luverne MN. and Sheldon, Sibley, Hull and Sioux Center, IA. are left with an uncertain future.
“The federal funding being provided to Lewis and Clark is not even enough to keep up with inflation, let alone make any meaningful construction progress. Under this continued scenario, the project would never be completed,” says LCRW Executive Director Troy Larson.
“It’s beyond frustration. It has turned into anger,” Hull City Administrator Les Van Roekel says of the mood in his community. Hull has been forced to declare a water emergency and restrict nonessential use of water this summer, and Hull, like all the LCRW members and the states of South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa, has already pre-paid the $153.6 million state and local match in an effort to keep LCRW moving forward.
“Now we see the federal government out there approving projects when previously approved projects,” like LCRW, “aren’t getting a funding level to ever be completed,” says Van Roekel.
LCRW is expected to drive hundreds of millions of dollars of economic develop in a three-state, 500-square-mile region, populated by 300,000 people. But as the project drags on, some of that development is held hostage, as well.
Photo: via Keloland, the massive pumps that have begun to supply water in South Dakota.
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