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December 19, 2011 06:27 PM

Money May Flow To Lewis And Clark

Sioux Falls, SD

Funding may not have dried up for the Lewis and Clark Water Project after all. A bill passed by Congress over the weekend means the water system could get extra money. 

Lewis and Clark expected to only get about $500,000 in 2012, which would barely have kept the lights on and stopped all construction. Now the water project hopes to get a part of an extra $30 million aimed at water projects across the country.

"[It's] potentially a huge improvement and we're just gonna keep our fingers crossed that a lion's share of the $30 million is directed toward Lewis and Clark," project executive director Troy Larson said. 

These workers were thought to be the last on the construction site. The money left in the coffers would barely sustain administrative work. But news that more could be headed to Lewis and Clark means Larson can make plans for construction. He hopes at least $10 million rolls his way and knows exactly what that would fund. 

"Pipeline all the way to Rock Rapids. It would also allow us to buy equipment for the water treatment plant and put up a perimeter fence. We don't even have money for a perimeter fence," Larson said. 

It would also provide funds for landscaping. Larson said even more money would be a bonus that could mean Minnehaha Community Water Corp, Rock County Rural Water District and the city of Luverne could all be connected into the system.

"We're not spending the money yet," Larson said. "But this is clearly a huge development with our funding."

Lewis and Clark asks for $35 million a year. Getting $10 million would still mean the project is about four to five years behind schedule. The Bureau of Reclamation decides who would get the proposed funds and how much. At least six other water projects are also in the running for the funds, so Lewis and Clark officials will once again wait just like they've done so many times before.

"It's jobs on the front and back ends. It's already a project the federal government has committed to. It only gets more expensive. And so all these reasons we've been waiting for the light bulb to come on and maybe it did," Larson said.

A decision about funds distribution must be made by the Bureau of Reclamation within 30 days, and the President has not signed the bill yet either. Larson said Lewis and Clark has not been a top priority for funds, but the bill also included language which could move it up the list.
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