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Editorial: L&C funding ultimately a positive

It wasn’t long ago that it appeared the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System was going to wind up as an afterthought in this year’s Minnesota Legislature.

As it turned out, Lewis & Clark ended up with $22 million to keep construction going. Legislators also opted to give local governments the authority to borrow $45 million, an amount that may be enough to get the project to Worthington. The state would pay two-thirds of the loan costs.

We’ve commented here before on the politics involved in getting Lewis & Clark funding, and we’re pleased an agreement was eventually reached that delivers dollars that are so desperately needed. One quibble, though — the $45 million portion of the funding isn’t exactly cut and dried.

“We’re just starting the process of figuring out the details and whether it is a viable option as worded, which could take a while,” Lewis & Clark Executive Director Troy Larson said in a Tuesday press release. “Right now we have a lot more questions than answers. Hopefully this provision is a viable option, but if not it was readily agreed it’s better to have legislation on the books that we can try to fix next session as opposed to starting with nothing.”

Larson’s point is well taken, but shouldn’t have had to have been made. Lewis & Clark is important enough that it should have been fully funded in the state’s bonding bill, but it’s fairly apparent that other DFL priorities and Republican resistance to a pricier bonding package kept that from happening. The federal government’s inability to follow through on its earlier funding promises cannot be ignored, either.

Yes, we have new funding, and that’s a great thing. Still, it’s hard not to think about what could — and should — have been.