U.S. Senators Tim Johnson (D-SD), John Thune (R-SD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Al Franken (D-MN), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Tom Harkin (D-IA) and U.S. Representatives Kristi Noem (R-SD), Collin Peterson (D-MN), Tim Walz (D-MN), and Steve King (R-IA) today wrote to the Bureau of Reclamation asking the administration to give all due consideration to providing additional resources to advance construction on the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System.  Congress provided the Bureau of Reclamation with an additional $27,098,000 for ongoing work on the six congressionally authorized rural water projects in the Fiscal Year 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act.  The letter notes that Lewis and Clark could utilize additional funding quickly and effectively to promote economic development and jobs.

The full text of the letter is below:

 

January 31, 2014

 

The Honorable Michael Connor

Commissioner

Bureau of Reclamation

1849 C Street, N.W.

Washington, DC 20240

 

Dear Commissioner Connor:

As you know, Congress provided the Bureau of Reclamation with an additional $27,098,000 for ongoing work on authorized rural water projects in the Fiscal Year 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 113-76).  As you consider how to allocate that funding among ongoing projects, we request you give all due consideration to funding the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System (RWS) to advance construction of the project in a meaningful way.

Congress authorized the Lewis & Clark RWS in 2000 (P.L. 106-246) to supply high quality, dependable drinking water to more than 300,000 residents in South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota, across a service territory of more than 5,000 square miles.  The project is currently 65 percent complete.  Lewis & Clark has seen tremendous investment at the local, state, and federal level, allowing for the construction of intake wells, a water treatment plant, pumping stations, and pipelines that now connect 11 of the 20 member systems.  Local project sponsors and the three states have collectively acted to provide their full non-federal cost share of $153.8 million.  To date, the federal government has provided nearly $212 million, which is substantially less than the authorized cost-share.

In providing additional funds for rural water, Congress directed the Bureau of Reclamation to give priority to a number of factors, including advancing ongoing work, enhancing national, regional, or local economic development, and promoting job growth.  The member communities awaiting connection to the Lewis & Clark RWS have demonstrated the ability to attract economic development and jobs if sufficient water supply is made available through the project.  For example, constrained water supply has prevented Madison, South Dakota from fully embracing new business and industries interested in locating in the community.   In Hull, Iowa, a dairy plant is ready to expand when sufficient water is available.  In Worthington, Minnesota, a pork processing plant has also expressed interest in expanding operations.  These are just a few examples of many demonstrating the potential for economic growth with proper investment in Lewis & Clark.     

Without new connections, communities waiting to be connected have already spent nearly $9 million to address their short-term water needs and expect to spend an additional $8.5 million in the near future.  For residents in communities that are currently being served, bearing the full costs of the system raises water rates above what would be necessary with a complete system. 

Lewis & Clark sponsors indicate that they have three pipeline projects that could be bid as soon as federal funding is available.  The first connection to be made would be an approximately $18.5 million pipeline to Luverne, Minnesota.  The estimated combined cost of the three projects is $34.4 million.  We encourage you to work closely with Lewis & Clark to determine what funding levels would allow for meaningful progress on these pipeline projects.

As you evaluate how to allocate funding, we urge you to consider the ability of the Lewis & Clark RWS to utilize funds quickly and effectively to promote economic development and jobs in communities in our states.  Thank you for your consideration of this request.

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