More funding possible for Lewis & Clark
By CHUCK CLEMENT, Staff Reporter
The funding outlook for fiscal year 2014 grew a bit brighter for the Lewis & Clark water pipeline with the U.S. House passing an appropriations bill containing $25 million for a group of water projects.|
Late Wednesday night, the House members passed HR-2609, the Energy & Water Appropriations Bill for FY2014, by a vote of 227-198. Included in its final passage were two amendments offered by Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., and passed by the House.
The House bill is accompanied by $25 million that was secured with support from Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., in a bill that was passed through the Senate Appropriations Committee this spring.
The full Senate still needs to pass the Energy & Appropriations Bill, the House and Senate will need to agree on the provisions in their versions of the legislation, and the president will need to sign it into law.
In addition, the federal Bureau of Reclamation will have the responsibility of doling out the proposed $25 million in funding to six water projects, including the Lewis & Clark pipeline.
Even the possibility of additional funding provided encouragement to local supporters of the project. Madison is one of nine communities in South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa that still need connections to the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System.
"Every dollar that goes into the Lewis & Clark project brings it one step closer to Madison," Madison Mayor Roy Lindsay said.
The Missouri River water project is currently 65 percent complete with 20 communities and three states having provided their agreed funding share of about $154 million. The federal government's cost share totaled $194 million in 2010, and federal funding is the only current resource directed at completing the project.
LCRWS supporters were disappointed when the Senate appropriated $3.2 million and the House provided $3.05 million in direct funding for the pipeline's construction during FY2014. According to supporters, that amount of funding would not even allow the project to stay ahead of any inflationary increases in its construction.
Troy Larson, LCRWS executive director, said supporters still have "a long way to go" in ensuring that the pool of $25 million would appear in the final FY2014 federal budget.
"Having the $25 million in the House bill, though, puts the funding in a much better position when working out final budget numbers with the Senate," Larson said.
Noem offered an initial amendment that directed $25 million in additional funding for rural water projects, such as LCRWS. She said the amendment did not increase spending in the legislation because it redirects money from other portions of the bill toward the water projects.
Noem offered a second amendment that prohibited the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from charging constituents in South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana a fee for surplus water from the Missouri River.
"From furthering development of rural water projects like Lewis & Clark to ensuring the Corps of Engineers doesn't overreach its authority, this bill is a good example of how we can responsibly use taxpayer dollars to provide essential services to our communities," Noem said in a press release.
©Madison Daily Leader 2013
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