Marshall Independent

By Deb Gau

Federal funding approved last week will help build the next phase of a water treatment plant for the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System. Lewis & Clark Executive Director Troy Larson said the project will make it possible for the plant to produce more than 44 million gallons of water a day.

“This does not get us to the finish line, but we can certainly see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Larson said in a Monday news release.

The Energy & Water Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 2024, approved by the U.S. Senate on Friday, includes more than $18.8 million for the Lewis & Clark system. That included both $6.825 million proposed in the FY24 budget, and a $12 million congressionally directed spending request made by Sens. John Thune, Amy Klobuchar, Mike Rounds and Tina Smith.

Larson said the majority of those funds will be used for Lewis & Clark’s water treatment plant near Vermillion, S.D.

“This is the third and final phase of building our treatment plant,” Larson said Tuesday. Plans for Phase 3 of the construction had been in the works for about two years. However, a combination of federal appropriations and funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law over the past couple of years has made it possible to accelerate the construction process, he said.

Lewis & Clark plans to open bids for Phase 3 of the water treatment plant on March 21.

“We’re excited to be able to award this contract,” Larson said. Lewis & Clark hopes to have the new phase of the treatment plant completed in 2027.

Construction on the water plant will make a difference for the 20 member cities and rural water systems Lewis & Clark serves. Larson said the project will allow the water plant to produce combined reserved capacities for 44.19 million gallons of water a day.

The Lewis & Clark system was incorporated in 1990. The system provides water to member cities and rural water systems in southeast South Dakota, northwest Iowa and southwest Minnesota. Some of those members include Lincoln Pipestone Rural Water, and the cities of Luverne and Worthington.

“A big thank you to Senators Thune, Klobuchar, Rounds and Smith for putting their names on the dotted line to make this spending request. They went above and beyond,” Larson said. “Thanks as well to the six other members of our tristate congressional delegation for working to increase funding for the Bureau of Reclamation’s Rural Water Program, which was higher in FY24 than in FY23.”

Larson said there are still some projects left for Lewis & Clark to complete, including ordering two backup generators, and building part of an additional well near the Missouri River.

However, he said, “We’re really close to the end. That’s the exciting part.”