Lewis & Clark Hoping For $3.3M To Cross Big Sioux

Tea, SD — While some pipeline projects, such as the Bakken oil pipeline project are moving at a comparatively breakneck pace, the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System pipeline languishes due to lack of federal funding.
lewis & clark water tower
Executive Director of Lewis & Clark, Troy Larsen says that if funding continues at its current pace, it will be the middle of the century before the pipeline is complete.

Larson says it would be a shame if it takes until 2050.

He says the problem is that the inflation on the remaining federal cost share rises about $8 million every year. That means there’s only about $2 million left every year to go toward the project. He says that’s why they’ve turned to the states of Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota for what they call “federal funding advances.” Larson says that’s basically a zero-percent loan from the states, over and above what they’ve already paid into the project, that would be repaid as Lewis & Clark gets the federal funding for the project, which if it were all built with today’s dollars would cost $589 million.

Larson says Minnesota and South Dakota have already contributed millions of dollars in federal funding advances, but Iowa has not. He says that doesn’t mean Iowans are against the project, it’s just that there are differences in state law.

So, Larson says they have asked the governor to include $3.3 million in his infrastructure budget. He says if that passes, they’ll use that money to install pipe under the Big Sioux River.

Larson says as of now, there is no pipe from Beresford to the Big Sioux and no pipe from the Big Sioux to Sioux Center either. He says installing that pipe will cost in the neighborhood of $50 million, some of which they hope to get in their Fiscal Year 2017 federal dollars, but he says that at current funding levels it will probably be at least six years before they have enough funding to complete that work.

Meanwhile, while Rock Rapids is listed as one of the “connected” systems in the Lewis & Clark system, the only connection receiving water is the one feeding Grand Falls Casino through Lyon & Sioux Rural Water. However, Rock Rapids Municipal Utilities Manager Jim Hoye says bids will be opened next week by the utility board for the installation of a section of pipe connecting the Rock Rapids municipal water system to Lewis & Clark.

The other Iowa systems that hope to be connected to the system are Sioux Center, as we mentioned, as well as Hull, Sheldon, and Sibley. There is already a connection between Sioux Center and Hull that provides water for the Agropur Cheese plant in Hull. Larson says Lewis & Clark currently buys water from Sioux Center and sells it to Hull.

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