SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Five communities are still waiting to receive water from the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System.
For Madison and four Iowa towns (Sioux Center, Hull, Sheldon and Sibley), the long wait may only last five more years if the United States House of Representatives votes to pass the “Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act,” which passed in the U.S. Senate on Aug. 10. That bill contains $1 billion for rural water projects across the country.
Troy Larson, the Executive Director of the Lewis & Clark water system, said all indications at this time point to the infrastructure bill passing by the end of the year.
“That would be a game-changer in terms of the infrastructure bill,” Larson said. “We’d have enough money to finish the project within five years.”
Larson said the water system alerted all six Senators from South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota about the estimated final $132 million needed to complete the pipeline system.
The House returns to Washington, D.C., next week, but Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has previously stated she won’t allow the House to pass the Senate-passed infrastructure bill until another infrastructure bill containing funding for paid leave, child care, Medicare expansion and other energy and climate related measures are added.
“The states and the local members have paid their share over a decade ago,” Larson said. “The entire construction schedule is predicated on what we get annually for federal funding.”
Construction is in progress to complete a pipeline from Beresford to Sioux Center, Iowa, but further construction from northern Sioux Falls to Madison, Hull, Iowa, to Sheldon, Iowa, and southwestern Minnesota to Sibley, Iowa, still needs funding.
In recent years, Larson said the project has received about $17-$18 million annually. According to Larson, if that amount of annual federal funding would continue, final construction would not be finished for another 10 years.
Separate from the infrastructure bill, Larson said the water system has been seeking bumps in funding from federal budgets from President Joe Biden’s federal budget and a separate FY22 Energy & Water Appropriations Bill. From Biden’s FY22 budget and the FY22 Energy & Water Appropriations Bill, Lewis & Clark could see more than $31 million in funding for the next year.
“We’ve been burning the candle on both ends when it comes to our funding,” Larson said. “It looks very encouraging for us. Right now, we don’t have a dime, but it looks very encouraging.”
If both the infrastructure bill and federal budget funding pass, Larson said the project wouldn’t receive “double the money” but the final $132 million to finish the project within five years would be met by a combination.