Dayton meets on Lewis and Clark in Washington
WORTHINGTON — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said Friday he and Minnesota federal lawmakers had a productive meeting in Washington this week regarding Lewis and Clark Regional Water System funding, but believes it’s going to be up to state and local governments to keep moving the project forward.
Dayton, who spoke by phone while traveling between Rochester and Albert Lea, explained that he and Minnesota members of Congress met Wednesday with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell on Lewis and Clark. The water system project has been plagued in recent years by a slow trickle of federal dollars, as federal lawmakers have not designated significant funding despite an earlier promise to pay a portion of the cost.
“I think the secretary of the interior got a very clear message once again on the focus of the project,” Dayton said. “There’s very fierce competition among a lot of other projects with other urgent needs … for federal funds for the next fiscal year. She doesn’t know at this point what the authorization and allocation is going to be.”
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar issued a press release following the meeting stating that she organized the meeting “to highlight the impact this delay (in funding) is having on Minnesota communities and why it’s so important for the Administration to provide the fund the project needs for completion.” Also attending the meeting with Jewell were U.S. Sen. Al Franken, Rep. Tim Walz and Rep. Collin Peterson.
Dayton said he learned Wednesday that roughly $200 million in federal money has been expended thus far, nearly all of it in South Dakota.
“Most of that money was generated through earmarks, which of course now have been banned by Congress,” Dayton said. “That’s what really provided the funding for the project.
“We’re going to continue to press forward as hard as we can” he added. “Whatever comes from the federal government with the good efforts of our congressional delegation will be a plus, but I don’t think we can rely on it.”
Dayton noted that Minnesota legislators approved $22 million in state money last month to complete the first phase of the project, and additional federal money boosts that amount to about $30 million.
“That gets the project to Luverne and Magnolia,” he said “Now we have to generate money to get to Worthington and the Iowa border. I feel it was deserving of state support through the statewide bonding bill and I’m disappointed we couldn’t get it through this time, but we’ll try again next time.”
Dayton said his trip to Washington was the first time he’s me t with anyone in the nation’s capital about Lewis and Clark. He added that he is planning a visit to Worthington next week — at a date and time yet to be determined — to meet with regional leaders to discuss how local governments can raise revenue for the project via the issuance of bonds. And despite a good meeting in Washington, the governor believes state and local entities will need to take a leadership role if the project is to be completed.
“I’ve come to believe local governments and state governments are going to have to do it, and I’m determined we’re going to do it,” Dayton said.
Daily Globe Managing Editor Ryan McGaughey may be reached at 376-7320.