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Editorial: Water system cut would dry up growth

Scott Hain, the general manager of Worthington Public Utilities, was incredulous when he learned President Bush's new budget allocates no new dollars for the Lewis and Clark regional water project.

Last year, the project received almost $27 million in funding, a figure below the project's request of $35 million but well in excess of Bush's proposal of $15 million. With Bush offering even less -- and you can't get any less than zero -- in this budget, advocates of the three-state water project would appear to have their hands full.

Still, Hain was optimistic Tuesday that federal support for Lewis and Clark will continue to grow.

"It's just shocking the administration would zero the project out, but our congressional delegation has been able to bump the administration number up every year," Hain said. "I think there's been only one year that funding has decreased from one year to the next."

Area federal legislators from both sides of the aisle, predictably, slammed the Lewis and Clark funding cut. Quite frankly, they've got every right to be irate at Bush's passing over of the project. The system, a partnership of 15 cities and five rural water districts in Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota, would get treated water from wells near the Missouri River through the 337 miles of underground pipe, the Associated Press explained in a story published in this newspaper Tuesday. Without an ample water supply, future development for this region will be next to impossible.

"There are some heavy hitters going to the plate for us," Hain said. Let's hope they can connect for a timely home run.