Funds are critical to creating jobs and economic development in communities across SW Minnesota, Iowa, and South Dakota
WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tina Smith (D-MN) today helped push a top Trump Administration official to target some of the millions of dollars in additional funding for the nation’s rural water projects - approved by Congress in December - to the Lewis & Clark Rural Water System that serves communities across Southwest Minnesota that currently don’t have a reliable source of clean water to bolster job creation and economic development.
The senators joined a letter to U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt by a bipartisan group of 10 House and Senate lawmakers who represent Minnesota, South Dakota, and Iowa, the three states served by the Lewis & Clark project. They urged Bernhardt to ensure an adequate part of the $132 million approved for rural water projects in December is targeted to ongoing efforts to complete the system that will serve 300,000 residents in the region.
The project was authorized in 2000, when the federal government agreed to share the cost of building it, but because of lack of adequate federal funding since then, progress has been slow and many communities have yet to be connected to the project and gain access to needed water. While every community on the system has paid its full share of the project, and the three states have committee $56 million in advanced funding to try to speed construction, the lack of federal help has left many communities unable to connect to the system and benefit from the project.
“Without strong funding, the project cannot make the necessary major progress to bring water to communities still waiting to connect to the system,” the lawmakers wrote. “The longer it takes, the more it will cost in construction. We are confident that all funding committed to Lewis & Clark will have a direct positive impact on the local economy in these communities.”
You can read the letter HERE and below:
Dear Secretary Bernhardt:
We write to request that your department, through the Bureau of Reclamation (BoR) Rural Water Program, provide strong federal resources to the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System (Lewis & Clark) for the remainder of fiscal year 2020. Over 300,000 residents in our home states of Minnesota, South Dakota, and Iowa rely on Lewis & Clark to provide secure and reliable access to clean water.
In December 2019, Congress passed and President Trump signed P.L. 116-94, the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020. Included in the additional funding for the Department of Interior BoR’s Rural Water Program is $117.4 million. Furthermore, the overall funding for the Rural Water Program in FY20 is $132 million, an increase of $19.5 million from fiscal year 2019.
After years of vetting by Congress, Lewis & Clark was authorized in 2000 as a federal, state, and local project with the federal government agreeing to share the cost of the system. To date, all of the states, local communities, and area water systems have paid their share of the project, even those not yet able to access the water. In fact, due to the critical need for water in these communities, our three respective states have prefunded a portion of the federal share of the project, committing over $56 million from state budgets to advance funding for construction. Other critical infrastructure needs in our home states remain on hold until the federal funding repays these advances.
Without strong funding, the project cannot make the necessary major progress to bring water to communities still waiting to connect to the system. The longer it takes, the more it will cost in construction. We are confident that all funding committed to Lewis & Clark will have a direct, positive impact on the local economy in these communities.
Thank you for your time and consideration of our request.