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Column: Lewis & Clark is vital to southwest Minnesota


ST. PAUL — With the legislative session now in full swing in St. Paul, I want to give you an update on an important project. The Lewis & Clark Regional Water System has been a work in progress for many years. Now is the time for the State of Minnesota to pick up the slack because of the failure of the federal government to hold up its end of the bargain.

It cannot be overstated how vital ensuring the completion of the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System is to our community. This pipeline draws water from a series of wells along the banks of the Missouri River and, upon completion, would service over 300,000 people in the region.

During my years as mayor of Luverne, I testified twice at U.S. Senate hearings on behalf of the project. Many people in Washington, D.C., and even in St. Paul, had difficulty understanding the need for such a system in southwestern Minnesota. While we may be the land of 10,000 lakes, it does not mean that good water is plentiful or even available everywhere in the state.

I grew up eight miles southwest of Luverne and five miles north of the Minnesota/Iowa state line. Farm wells in the area varied greatly, with some reaching depths of 600 to 900 feet. Much of this water was so hard it would have taken multiple water softeners to treat it for household use. Some farms could not raise baby pigs due to poor water quality.

At the time I was mayor, the city of Luverne, a city of approximately 4,700 people, had more than 20 wells to provide their water supply. The best of these produced roughly 300 gallons per minute, but most produced slightly over 100 gallons per minute. This is not a high-producing well output when you consider that a center pivot irrigator on 160 acres will require a well producing 800 to 1,000 gallons per minute. While none of this water will be used for irrigation, I use the example to demonstrate the low water output of many of our wells. In addition, the higher producing wells contain high levels of iron and manganese and are expensive waters to treat. Many areas in southwest Minnesota experience similar water issues which the completion of this pipeline will alleviate.

Completion of this water system is critical to future agricultural, industrial and population growth in a large portion of southwest Minnesota. As the state senator for this area, I am working to obtain the necessary funds for this project.

Bill Weber, a Republican, is serving his first term in the Minnesota Senate.