WORTHINGTON - The new metering house constructed to accept water from the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System will carry the names of the two men who fought hard to see the project completed.
During a late afternoon ceremony Wednesday at the Worthington Event Center, LCRWS Board Chairman Red Arndt unveiled a sign honoring past and present Worthington Public Utilities general managers Don Habicht and Scott Hain. The plaque bearing their names will soon be installed on the new metering building along Sherwood Street.
The late Habicht and his successor, Hain, worked tirelessly at the state and federal level to first approve of the multi-state, multi-million-dollar water project and then to fund it.
“Don was an original member of the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System in 1990 and he continued to 2006,” Arndt said. “Don never gave up.”
The same could be said for Hain.
“Nobody spent more time lobbying than Scott,” Arndt noted.
Though Lewis & Clark water has yet to be blended with that from Worthington’s wells, Mayor Mike Kuhle said the completion of the project is a game changer for the city.
“It’s something we’re really excited and grateful for,” he said, adding that residents will no longer need to endure watering restrictions, or businesses be locked out of building in the community.
Kuhle recognized numerous individuals - including Habicht, Hain and Arndt, former mayors Bob Demuth and Alan Oberloh, Luverne city leaders and Sen. Bill Weber and Rep. Rod Hamilton - for advocating for and securing funding to construct Minnesota’s portion of the regional water pipeline.
“Gov. Mark Dayton was our biggest supporter,” Kuhle said. “He saw the wisdom of getting our community the water it needs to survive and prosper. We really appreciate his support in Worthington.”
Once pressure testing of the lines is successfully completed, the city will receive 1.9 million gallons of water per day through the Lewis & Clark pipeline. The water is piped from the Missouri River some 135 miles away.
Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Myron Frans was instrumental in the process of getting state funding advancements to complete the Minnesota portion of the project. The process was something that hadn’t been done before.
“This is one of those projects that’s just been fun to work on,” Frans told those in attendance. “I never had to worry about the governor’s support. He made it clear from the very beginning that this was something that just had to get done.”
Frans read a letter from Dayton, which stated that: “While Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes, we know we can’t take water for granted. The project is essential to the vitality of the region.
Frans also presented a proclamation declaring Dec. 12, 2018 as Lewis & Clark Regional Water System Day.
With Arndt accepting the proclamation, he also had a presentation to make - the Spirit of Discovery award. The honor, he said, recognizes the spirit necessary for the explorers who became the namesake for LCRWS and the teamwork, passion, persistence and optimism needed to advance the regional water project. The award goes to Dayton, and was accepted on his behalf by Frans.
“The governor called for a federal funding advance - it was his idea,” said Arndt, who went on to talk about the three different bonding bills passed in the Minnesota Legislature that delivered $44.5 million to southwest Minnesota’s connection to Lewis & Clark.
“If it were not for the federal funding advances, we would not be here today,” Arndt said. “In fact, Luverne would probably not be hooked up yet.”
Also providing comments during the ceremony were Weber (R-Luverne), Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake), staffers for Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Sen. Tina Smith, and Gary Hoffman, current president of Worthington Public Utilities’ Water & Light Commission.
Now that the project is completed, there is still much lobbying to be done to get the federal government to repay the states for the funding advancements that were made. In addition, there are still portions of the pipeline yet to be constructed - to Madison, S.D., and also in northwest Iowa.
To date, $373 million has been spent on construction of the regional water pipeline.
The LCRWS, once finished, will consist of 337 miles of pipeline delivering water to 300,000 residents in 5,000 square miles of southeast South Dakota, northwest Iowa and southwest Minnesota. It will deliver 45 million gallons of water each day, with the potential to be expanded to 60 million gallons of water per day.