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Editorial: 'Dead in the water'

The headline on Monday's press release from Lewis & Clark Regional Water System was prescient. "Lewis & Clark RWS Responds to Federal FY14 Budget Allocation: $3.2 Million Leaves Project 'Dead in the Water.'" These laments are - sadly - nothing news for a project that is such an integral component of this region's future.

Lewis & Clark, the press release noted, is unable to begin any construction this year because a lack of funding, and the proposed 2014 amount also isn't enough for pipeline construction slated for then. We would be remiss if we didn't add that federal funding for what is a congressionally authorized project has not even kept with inflation on the federal cost share for the past three years.

Of course, those familiar with the water project know well that all its participating members have already paid 100 percent of their non-federal cost share, fulfilling their end of the funding bargain. So why does the federal government not hold up its end of the deal? Congress is treating Lewis & Clark as if it were a banned federal earmark, when in fact it is already an authorized project.

Many people have spent considerable energy urging further federal funding of Lewis and Clark, but these efforts continue to be rebuffed. The proposed Authorized Rural Water Projects Completion Act, which failed to pass last year, was re-introduced this week. Its approval should be a no-brainer. Otherwise, the project will almost certainly be left -- quite literally -- high and dry.

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