Lewis & Clark project head lobbying lawmakers in DC for funding
By Forrest Saunders, Multimedia Journalist - email
HULL, Iowa (KTIV) -
The head of the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System is in Washington, lobbying Congress. Troy Larson hopes lawmakers will turn on the financial faucet, and funnel some federal money into the project.
The Lewis & Clark system wants to pump drinking water to 20 member cities and rural water systems, in Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota.
Monday, Larson announced water is now reaching about half those areas. But the others, many in Siouxland, have been left high and dry. Lewis & Clark doesn't have enough federal funding to finish the infrastructure to connect those members. They're suffering, says Larson.
"Lewis & Clark is critical to the quality of life and economic development of the tri-state region," he said.
Fiery temps and little rain have dried Hull, Iowa to the bone. A drought, that's straining their water supply pumped in from neighbors, and put the town in a water restriction since June.
"Pretty much any non-essential use of water. We've encouraged the citizens to take it serious because it is," said City Administrator Les Van Roekel.
Hull's water woes get worse. Their lack of a large constant supply is hindering their economy. Local cheese factory, Agropur, wants to double production and add jobs. It can't, though, until Hull has more.
The Lewis & Clark system could help. Hull's invested in the project, but has been waiting since the 90's for the 200 miles of pipeline and infrastructure needed to connect. Project officials like Larson say it's going to take $200 million in federal funding to get it done.
Tuesday, he was lobbying a Senate committee for funds. Larson wants Congress to back a bill that would annually direct $80 million to the Lewis & Clark , and six other water projects. He says the key to get it, show politicians it's a priority.
"Everyone says it's a priority, but clearly actions speak louder than words. Why are we only getting $4 million to $5 million a year, which is not even keeping up with inflation," said Larson.
Until the funding issues are water under the bridge, Hull will have to look elsewhere to quench its thirst. All the while holding hope they'll be hooked up in a matter of years.
"We still believe in the system. We believe it's a project that will be completed. All that's left is the federal dollars," said Van Roekel.
Hull has some help in their immediate future. Van Roekel says crews are completing a new water well in Sioux Center, Iowa. They're one of sources of Hull's water. Van Roekel hopes Hull can lift their water restriction once Sioux Center's well is working.
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