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Letter: Lewis and Clark funding facing a critical juncture

By Craig Clark, Worthington City Administrator

As many of you are already aware, the city of Worthington’s well levels continue to see steeper declines and diminished recharges, and we do not know where the bottom of our well supply ends. As you can imagine, this presents a significant amount of concern when we have our proverbial water “eggs” in “one basket” by relying on a sole source of water.

The city has spent decades and hundreds of thousands of dollars to explore additional local sources to come to the same point — no additional water can be found in the southwest corner of a state the boasts being the land of 10,000 lakes. This has enormous impact on Worthington and the region for sustainability and any potential for economic growth from businesses that need water for their production.

We now stand at another crossroads in Worthington’s push to fill this void with water from the wells below the Missouri River and the Lewis and Clark water project.

Deadlines from the federal government continue to pass with the same reality that with what limited funds have been appropriated the project does not even keep pace with inflation and will never allow for the completion.

Fortunately, we have seen an increased recognition of our concerns this year from Gov. Dayton through his support of state funds that can rectify the federal government’s continued inability to move this project forward by including $20.203 million for the Lewis and Clark water extension. Governor Dayton has recognized that while it is very concerning that the president and Congress have not kept their commitments, the state won’t let that lack of resolve result in an area of the state being left so vulnerable to a lack of a basic element of life like water. We can not wait until the faucet runs dry before we are called into action.

Our legislators, Sen. Bill Weber and Rep. Rod Hamilton, are vocal supporters of the project and we are working closely with them to continue to move the project forward. We need just shy of $70 million for the build-out to get the Minnesota portion completed that will bring the line into Worthington. Their commitment led to the introduction this last week of the full amount for the project. We need a large enough bonding bill that includes funds for Lewis and Clark as we will have to compete with several other projects across the state. Having the help of state legislative leaders now can keep this vital water project moving. With borrowing rates being so favorable, now is the time to ensure the proper investments are moved forward across the state and not let an arbitrary threshold hold us back.

With Gov. Dayton and our local legislators on board, I’m hopeful our state leaders will come to the same conclusions they have and approve the funds necessary to make the Lewis and Clark water project a done deal and ensure this basic element of life to a region that is roughly the size of Connecticut.

Craig Clark

Worthington City Administrator