There was a meeting of the minds today in Tea as Senator Al Franken tries to bring back information to Washington DC about the importance of the Lewis and Clark Water Systems. The local communities that could use the clean water have already paid their share, but the federal government has only given $3.2 million this year to the project, which doesn't even cover yearly inflation.
"It has become frustrating to try and get certain projects done that you really care about and I care about this one because people in the Southwest part of Minnesota deserves this," Senator Al Franken said.
The next step of the Lewis and Clark project is to bring a water pipeline to Luverne, Minnesota. The city's Mayor Patrick Baustain is happy to have a lawmaker so vocal in getting clean water to his community, but he knows there is still a long way to go.
"I have great hope in Senator Franken and what he said, but he is one voice and being that we've been shot down on funding so far in the part 10 years, not at the level we wanted. More comfortable? Let's put it as more favorable, that's about it," Luverne Mayor Patrick Baustian said.
Executive Director of the Lewis and Clark Water Systems Troy Larson doesn't understand why after local communities have paid its share of the project that the federal government hasn't picked up more of the bill.
"This is one of those unique projects where there is no opposition. From the democrats, the republicans, the administration, environmental groups, there is no opposition, yet they can't find a way to get it done," Larson said.
Franken says he will continue to fight for this cause, because he considers this project vital in these communities.
"The whole point of these projects is you need water for economic development, and we've already seen economic development opportunities that have gone by the wayside because Minnesota isn't hooked up and because Iowa isn't hooked up," Franken said.
To get the pipeline to Luverne Larson estimates it will take an additional $17 million this year, and to get from the Iowa border to Worthington, Minnesota it will take around $65 million. For Senator Franken, the numbers he would like to get from the federal government aren't as set in stone.
"There's a concrete number, it's as much as possible," Franken said.
When Franken gets back to Washington DC he will again meet with the Office of Management and Budget.
There is some help as Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton recently added $20 million to his bonding bill towards the project.
There is also $27 million that the President requested for different water projects across the country. The Bureau of Reclamation has 30 days from January 17 to decide how the money will be handed out to the six water projects.