U.S. Senate offers hope for Lewis & Clark project
By CHUCK CLEMENT, Staff Reporter
A glimmer of hope emerged from Washington, D.C., this week for the stalled Lewis & Clark water pipeline after a Senate committee passed a bill that could restart construction for the project in 2014.|
Describing the Obama administration's budget request for the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System as "inadequate," U.S. Sen Tim Johnson, D-S.D., announced today (Friday) that $3.2 million in funding for the LCRWS passed the full Senate Appropriations Committee in a bill dealing with fiscal year 2014 Energy and Water Development Appropriations. Johnson added that the Senate Appropriations bill includes additional funding for rural water projects.
Johnson stated in a press release, "In addition to $3.2 million included for Lewis and Clark specifically, the (Senate) bill provides an additional $25 million that has to be used for ongoing work on congressionally-authorized rural water projects, including Lewis and Clark."
If the $25 million were made available, officials with the Bureau of Reclamation would determine how the funding would be divided among the six water projects currently on the federal government's funding list.
Troy Larson, LCRWS executive director, said the water project's supporters were pleased to see the pool of $25 million in the Senate legislation.
"If it's made available, that funding would give us the opportunity to secure additional money for Lewis & Clark," Larson said. "If the Bureau of Reclamation would divide it equally among the half-dozen rural water projects on the list, then we'd be looking at $7 million to $8 million."
Larson described federal funding of up to $8 million as enough to "stop the bleeding" regarding financial support for the three-state water project. At mid-April after the administration announced $3.2 million in funding for LCRWS, Larson had said that the proposed FY2014 funding wouldn't provide for any new construction on the water pipeline.
The three states -- South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota -- and 20 local communities, including Madison, have prepaid more than $153 million for the project, and LCRWS construction currently depends on the federal government's funding share. The remaining federal cost share had increased from $194.3 million in 2010 to $200.6 million in 2011, indicating that the proposed annual federal funding for the project won't keep pace with inflation.
LCRWS Chairman Red Arndt told Congress in April, "We are on a path to infinity. Even if Lewis & Clark receives $10 million a year, our engineers estimate the project would not be completed until 2050."
As one member of the project, Madison is one of the last communities that would receive a connection to the water pipeline.
"The good news is Lewis & Clark will be able to compete for a part of the $25 million provided to the Bureau of Reclamation for ongoing projects if the funding is retained in the final bill," Johnson said in his press release.
The House Appropriations Committee passed on Wednesday its FY2014 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill. The House version includes less funding for Lewis & Clark, decreasing the amount to $3.05 million. In addition, the House bill does not provide for any additional funding for ongoing rural water projects.