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Letter: Dayton, others came through for Lewis & Clark

By Lennis “Red” Arndt, Luverne, Chairman of the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System

Lewis & Clark received its best news in five years when the Legislature approved a $22 million advance on our federal funding in the bonding bill. Federal funding has slowed to a drip, which has halted construction. The pipeline is stalled one mile into Minnesota from the Iowa border south of Luverne.

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The three states and 20 members already pre-paid 100 percent of their non-federal cost share — a combined $154 million — so we hated to go back to the State for help. Unfortunately, with the Feds leaving us high and dry we had no choice. Our tri-state congressional delegation has worked very hard to convince the government to honor its funding commitment, but unfortunately the Administration and the rest of Congress just don’t understand the critical importance of water to the quality of life and economic development of the region. Shameful.

Fortunately, Governor Dayton and the Legislature get it. They stepped up to the plate in a big way to keep construction moving forward in Minnesota.

We can now build the line from the Iowa border to Luverne and then over to Magnolia, where Rock County Rural Water District has a second connection. This is great news, but the job isn’t done yet. All the members need to work together to ensure Worthington, the Lincoln Pipestone Rural Water System and unconnected members in Iowa and South Dakota receive this critically needed water as well. A provision in the tax bill hopefully provides an option to get the line to Worthington, but we don’t know yet.

A huge thank you to Governor Dayton for his steadfast support and leadership. He really came through for the citizens of southwest Minnesota. Our local legislators — Senator Bill Weber, Representative Rod Hamilton and Representative Joe Schomacker — went above and beyond. It wouldn’t have happened without their tenacious support. Thanks as well to Mayor Alan Oberloh and Public Utilities Manager Scott Hain for their key leadership roles. Mayor Oberloh got the whole thing started when he met with the governor in March last year.

We will use future federal funding to re-pay the State once all 20 members are connected. The tri-state congressional delegation and everyone at Lewis & Clark will use this funding advance to try to get the administration and congressional leaders to wake up. Water needs and promises made are not things that can be ignored.