Late Friday, the Worthington Globe's Julie Buntjer reported in Lewis & Clark water project getting $9 million in federal money that Troy Larson, executive director of the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System, suggests that one option for deciding where the money will be spent is to play legislatures in Minnesota and Iowa against each other:
The Lewis & Clark Regional Water System announced Friday it will get $9 million from the federal Bureau of Reclamation this year to continue to expand its multi-state water pipeline.
The designated funds are nearly $6.6 million more than what had been proposed by the Obama Administration in its 2015 budget. . . .
Just which state will benefit from the $9 million depends on each state legislature’s willingness to approve another federal funding advance.
“Both Minnesota and Iowa are considering federal funding advances this session,” said Larson. “Where that $9 million is used will be based on those funding advances.
“Hypothetically, if Minnesota offers another advance and Iowa does not, we could put that $9 million into Minnesota.”
A decision on where the funds go likely won’t be made until both states wrap up their legislative sessions in May, Larson said. . . .
It sounds as if the Minnesota legislature is eager to snatch this $6.6 million dollars in unexpected cash from the grasp of our competition in the Hawkeye state, since fronting state money as an advance for federal money worked so well last year:
The announcement is good news for the water project, which has been 25 years in the making. The system is now serving 11 of the 20 member communities, with both Rock County Rural Water and the city of Luverne to be hooked in next. Those hookups — the line will actually extend to near Magnolia — are made possible thanks to the Minnesota Legislature approving a $22 million federal funding advance during the 2014 session.
Troy Larson, executive director of the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System, said Friday he doesn’t know yet where the $9 million in new money will be targeted. The funds aren’t enough to build the pipeline to another community, but it will nevertheless result in expansion progress. . . .
Minnesota received all of Lewis & Clark’s 2014 funding of $8.3 million with the legislative action last year.
Buntjer notes that the dribble of federal money into the system is just a drop in the bucket of what's needed to complete the system: "$48 million to bring the pipeline from Magnolia to Worthington and thus complete the last Minnesota hook-ups."
The Lewis and Clark system officials bemoan the drip, drip, drip of federal funds to the system, a chorus perfected ever since former President George W. Bush zeroed out the system in 2003. Republican and Democratic representatives stepped up to claim earmarks for the system until Boehner banned earmarks. Now President Obama's administration has stepped up to deprived the vote-and-potable-water-poor region of dollars to complete the system for the area, cursed by geology.
While each team trades the ball in this partisan blame game, Bluestem's been a spectator long enough to think that it's one of the best illustrations around of partisan games over level-headed policy about basic infrastructure.
Photo: that pipeline to nowhere. Via Minnesota Public Radio news. They're having a fundraiser. Give them your money.
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