Board to vote on the future of Lewis and Clark water project - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Funding dries up for Lewis and Clark water project, board to vote on its future

HULL, Iowa (KTIV) -

A rural water system that began construction in the year 2000, is still at least four years from completion, and there isn't financial support from the federal government anywhere in sight.

The Lewis and Clark Regional Water System, when proposed, was slated to provide water to 20 communities across Iowa, South Dakota, and Minnesota. Nearly 14 years later, nine of those communities are paying for water they're still not receiving.

"It's not a good situation. We thought that the Lewis and Clark system was a great option, and still is a great option for future expansion, but we don't know when it's going to be here," Aaron Kooiker, Hull City Administrator.

The funding each community agreed to put forth has been there every year, but Lewis and Clark officials say the federal funding has been "woefully inadequate," causing halts in construction.  But they've decided the wait has gone on long enough. The Regional Water Project Board will vote October 24th between two options, continue as is and take the risk of the federal money never showing up, or go on a capital call to all 20 communities and take more money from them to get construction done.

"It's truly the members picking their poison. We just have two very bad options in front of us because of the federal government leaving us high and dry," Troy Larson, executive director of Lewis and Clark Regional Water System, said.

The lack of water is causing big problems for Hull, Iowa. The town's cheese plant, Agropur, is poised for huge growth, but they don't have the water to make it happen.

"Agropur is talking about putting a huge expansion into their plant, and we want them to do that, because that's an economic boom for our town. But we can't get the water for that," Kooiker said.

In order to get enough water, they're looking at a water price increase of almost 30 dollars per meter, in addition to the extra they're paying because Lewis and Clark isn't complete. And Hull isn't the only community experiencing problems. Lewis and Clark officials say they're frustrated that this problem even exists in the first place, and Hull's situation only makes it worse.

"We know the federal government is in a tough situation. We're not blind to the fact that we need to be good stewards of our dollars. However, this is basic infrastructure. This is drinking water. If we, as a country, can't prioritize drinking water, we're in a world of hurt," Larson said.

The vote on whether or not to use more community funding to finish the project will take place next Thursday, October 24th.

It could mean towns tied to the project contributing several hundred-thousand dollars each to make up for this year's federal funding shortfall

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