Tea, SD — Officials with the Lewis and Clark Water system that is supposed to provide Missouri River aquifer water to northwest Iowa, Southeast South Dakota and southwest Minnesota are reacting with “shock, disbelief, and disgust” after hearing the latest numbers the Obama administration is proposing for funding the project in the next fiscal year. Troy Larson, executive director of the system says they will not be able to initiate any construction in 2013, due to the lack of federal funding. He says based on the $3.2 million allotted to Lewis and Clark in the President’s budget, they won’t be doing any construction in 2014 either. He says that considering the extensive efforts of the tri-state Congressional delegation, governors, and project officials to convince the Administration to increase funding from the $4.5 million it proposed in fiscal year 2013, the Lewis and Clark board members couldn’t believe what they were hearing.
Chairman of the board Red Arndt says QUOTE, “There are no words left but cuss words to describe this travesty.” He says the lack of funding leaves the project, QUOTE “dead in the water.”
Lewis and Clark officials say that the funding in recent years hasn’t even kept up with inflation on the remaining federal cost share. In 2010, the cost was about $194 million. In 2011, the cost was over $200 million. So the cost went up $6 million, and the federal government only gave them $4.5 million in 2012. At this rate, Arndt says the project will never be completed.
The states, cities and rural water systems contributed their share of the cost of the project long ago. It’s now 65 percent complete, and 11 member systems began receiving water in July of 2012. Yet, Hull, Sheldon, Sibley, and Sioux Center, Iowa; Madison, South Dakota, Luverne and Worthington, Minnesota, as well as Lincoln-Pipestone and Rock County Rural Water systems have yet to be connected. The city of Rock Rapids isn’t connected either, but their customer, Lyon-Sioux Rural water is connected, which does free up some capacity on the Rock Rapids system.
Arndt says, QUOTE: “President Obama has often touted the importance of investing in critical infrastructure and creating jobs. Those words now ring hollow with empty promises for the tri-state region. The Administration is leaving us high and dry at a time when we need the water more than ever, given the drought.”