WORTHINGTON - Six months after the gala intended to mark the completion of the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System (LCRWS) pipeline - and the arrival of Missouri River water to Worthington - a much smaller gathering took place Tuesday to celebrate the actual finishing of the project.
Lewis & Clark water has been flowing through Worthington’s water system and out of faucets in households and businesses across the city since May 13. The water is being blended 50-50 with water from Worthington’s wells.
On Tuesday morning, Worthington Public Utilities commissioners joined city leaders and representatives from Lewis & Clark for a ribbon cutting at the site of the Worthington Meter Building. The building’s plaque gives honor to Don Habicht and Scott Hain, consecutive Worthington Public Utilities general managers who dedicated significant portions of their careers to seeing the project to completion.
“I often said that I hoped to see Lewis & Clark water here by the time I retired,” Hain said. “I’m not ready to retire yet, so … I want to deliver that first repayment check up to somebody at St. Paul for the federal funding advance they gave us.”
In addition to supplying the city of Worthington with a consistent source for water - particularly important in periods of drought - the water piped in from the Missouri River is considerably softer than the water in the city’s wellfields.
As a result, Hain said consumers have told him they are using much less dish soap and shampoo.
“We’ve gone from about 25-26 grains hardness … and now with the blended water we’re down to 16-17 (grains hardness),” Hain said. “Once we have some consistency there, we’re going to let the public know that now that you’re getting softer water, you may want to think about adjusting your water softener down. That’s going to help us on the wastewater side with the salty discharge the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is concerned with.”
Hain and his predecessor, Habicht, were constant lobbyists on behalf of the city’s water needs. During their tenures, both made multiple trips to St. Paul and Washington, D.C., to advocate for funding the water pipeline. It’s been said that without the state funding advances for the project, Worthington might not have received its connection until 2050.
Habicht’s widow, Beth Habicht, was on hand for Tuesday’s dedication.
“When Don first came home with this idea, he was so excited about it,” she said. “I know he’s looking down with a lot of pride in the people who made it work. He and Scott worked together for many, many years. One person couldn’t do it - it took all of you. On behalf of Don, thank you.”
Habicht served 16 years on the LCRWS board of directors, and Hain has now served on that same board for 15 years.
“Don often remarked that Worthington needed water a hundred years ago. It took us 30 years for the Lewis & Clark to finally arrive. Better late than never,” said LCRWS Board Chairman Red Arndt of Luverne. “There’s no doubt it would have taken much longer were it not for the transformation of Scott into the superhero lobbyist he turned out to be.
“Scott was in St. Paul so much over the four-year period advocating for the federal funding advances that the last, final advance was affectionately referred to by our local legislators as the ‘Keep Scott Hain out of St. Paul Bill,’” Arndt said with a grin.
As part of Tuesday’s celebration, Arndt presented Hain with the Lewis & Clark Trailblazer award - the highest honor given by LCRWS to recognize individuals who have “demonstrated the utmost commitment and dedication to making the dream of Lewis & Clark a reality.” The award was a framed print featuring a hunting scene.
Habicht received the same honor in 2007, Arndt noted.