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A Project Decades In The Pipeline

August 31, 2012, 10:00 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

A Project Decades In The Pipeline
SIOUX FALLS, SD -

It's taken nine years to build but even longer to plan.

The Lewis and Clark Regional Water System hit a key milestone this month when it started pumping treated Missouri River water to eleven communities.

It's a project that's been more than 20 years in the making.

Roger Lamp has been on the Lewis and Clark board since 1991.

"It seemed like in the beginning there was a lot of effort just to get authorized. It took about ten years, until 2000, to get authorized," Lamp said.

Lamp is also on the Lincoln County Rural Water board that started receiving water from Lewis and Clark in August. He says he got involved early on because he knew how critical the water needs of the growing region are going to be.

"So, we've got a considerable amount of extra water that we can use, which will change our reasons for restrictions and things like that," Lamp said.

Former Sioux Falls Mayor Dave Munson picked up where his predecessor left off in 2002.

"Former Mayor Gary Hanson was really the person that came up with the vision for Lewis and Clark and so we followed what he did because he got the authorization and everything through so a lot of credit goes to him," Munson said.

But Munson helped lead the way in lining up funding for the project. He made several trips to Washington D.C. to meet with the Congressional delegation; he also led the charge when Sioux Falls issued a $66 million bond to pre-pay for Lewis and Clark. At the time it was the largest bond issue in city history.

"Everybody really understood the need of getting a stable supply of water, so overall it was really well received by people to see what happened," Munson said.

Sioux Falls was always pushing for completion of the project by 2012 and that goal became a reality this year after decades of fighting for authorization, starting construction and riding the federal funding roller-coaster.

"For the Lewis and Clark board and for everybody to work hard together to get the project finished in that time frame. I applaud everybody. I think it's a great accomplishment and I think it's one of the most important infrastructure projects we've ever done in making sure we have that stable supply of water," Munson said.

Lamp is glad to see the project come this far after his 21 years of work.

"I always said I would stay on this board until water flowed to us and it's now here and I don't intend to get off. But to me it was a milestone just personally," Lamp said.

He's staying on board because there are still nine other communities waiting for the water and the federal funding fight is now tougher than ever. Recent allocations only give the project between four and five million dollars a year. At that rate the project will never be finished because it won't keep up with inflation.

"In the name of saving money they're wasting money because they are asking the taxpayers to cough up but the taxpayers are paying inflationary money and not giving us funds to continue with our construction," Lamp said.

That's why even though the men and women who have worked long and hard to get Lewis and Clark to this point still know how important it is to finish the job.

"I think they'd really be forward thinking to get this off the board because it just needs to get done," Munson said.

And after more than 20 years it will still take many more before they can celebrate final completion.

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