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Drought May Push Payment For Lewis & Clark

June 20, 2012, 9:57 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

Drought May Push Payment For Lewis & Clark
HARRISBURG, SD -

The Lewis and Clark Regional Water System is set to start pumping water for the first time later this summer.

Eleven of the 20 member communities are scheduled to get Missouri River water in just over a month.

"It's exciting to see the project come to fruition, or at least this phase of the project," Harrisburg Mayor Julie Burke-Bowen said.

Harrisburg is one of the eleven communities and Lewis and Clark will start sending treated Missouri River water to Harrisburg by late July. Burke-Bowen says it will be Harrisburg's only source of water.

"Our risk and mitigation isn't so high because that means that we now are kind of our own owners and we're not dependent on somebody else," Burke-Bowen said.

But for the nine other communities in South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa that aren't getting hooked up this summer they are depending on Congress to pay for the rest of the project.

"We do have members who are under water restrictions and it's only getting worse, so it just drives home the point that this project is desperately needed for this area," Lewis and Clark Regional Water System Executive Director Troy Larson said.

Officials believes the hot and dry summer that is starting to affect parts of KELOLAND and many parts of the country could be the push Congress needs to fund the project.

"We certainly don't wish this for the farmers but a drought situation would help our funding in terms of Capitol Hill, people realizing that they do need to fund this project in a way that will allow the members to receive water in a timely fashion," Larson said.

Lewis and Clark's funding from the federal government is so small right now that the only construction project it can afford through 2013 is one six-mile stretch of pipe to Rock Rapids, Iowa.

So, even though towns like Harrisburg will be celebrating this summer they'll also be cheering for the other communities who will be waiting for Congress to pay for their connection.

"We really want to make sure the whole project gets done and the whole phases get completed. Just because we have water doesn't mean the project is complete," Burke-Bowen said.

If federal funding continues at the current rate of about $5 million a year the Lewis and Clark officials say the project will never be completed because the funding won't keep up with inflation.
 

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