President Bush’s new budget eliminates all funding for the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System, which is to deliver drinking water to communities in Iowa, South Dakota and Minnesota. The massive project is still under construction and is set to receive more than 26-million federal dollars this year. Troy Larson, the system’s executive director, says he’s shocked by the cut.
Larson says: "That makes absolutely no sense what so ever. We have a tri-state project that has such broad support, is critically needed. We’ve got the states and members that are pre-paying their share of the project. To go from last year’s level of 15-million to zero, that just doesn’t make any sense. It’s stunning beyond belief."
Larson says he’s confident the congressional delegations from the three states will be able to restore some funding, but the lower starting point makes it more difficult to catch up. He says funding was moved up from 15- to 26-million dollars last year and he says the project has been gaining momentum. The new budget is to take effect October first. Larson says this proposed cut will stretch out the construction even longer.
They’d hoped for 35-million dollars in funding to keep construction on schedule. He says they’re already three years behind and even with full funding, the project won’t be done until 2019. The system is a partnership of 15 cities and five rural water districts in the three states that would use some 340 miles of underground pipe to move treated water to communities from wells near the Missouri River.