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LPRW celebrates connection to Lewis and Clark

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Lewis & Clark Regional Water System and Lincoln-Pipestone Rural Water board members are joined by area political leaders in celebration the completion of the water connection that supplies LPRW customers with Lewis & Clark's water pipeline during a ceremony Thursday at the site three miles east of Adrian. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)

ADRIAN — The morning after heavy rains rolled through portions of southwest Minnesota, members of Lincoln-Pipestone Rural Water joined representatives of the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System Thursday to celebrate water.

They gathered for a ribbon cutting at the new meter building and pump station three miles east of Adrian, where the L&C water pipeline connects with Lincoln-Pipestone Rural Water (LPRW) to deliver up to 550,000 gallons of water per day to customers in LPRW’s service area. Lincoln-Pipestone supplies water to farms, homes and businesses in Murray, Nobles, Pipestone, Rock, Jackson, Lincoln, Lyon, Redwood, Yellow Medicine and Lac Qui Parle counties.

The meter building and pump station began providing LPRW with water on May 13, but with delayed planting and busy schedules, the celebration was delayed. The rural Adrian connection was originally to be LPRW’s only connect to the Lewis & Clark pipeline. A second connection, the first to be completed, was at Magnolia in November 2017. Combined, the two connections deliver 1.1 million gallons of water to LPRW daily.

LPRW General Manager Jason Overby said all of the water obtainable from L&C. is being accepted. LRPW's connections transport water to the Chandler water tower and LPRW’s new pump station at Edgerton.

Troy Larson, executive director of Lewis & Clark, called the three-state water pipeline a legacy project that will benefit residents for generations to come.

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“This is the first time anything like this has been tried — where you have three states, federal government and 20 cities and rural water systems working together to try to accomplish something,” Larson said. “We are blazing a new trail in many respects.”

Lewis & Clark was incorporated Jan. 29, 1990, and it took 19 years, 8.5 months for the project to deliver its full promise of water to LPRW.

It took far longer, from LPRW’s perspective. The multi-county water system was established when a group of farmers wanting a clean, reliable water source formed a steering committee back in 1976.

“It was just an idea back then,” said LPRW Commissioner Frank Engels, the longest-serving board member. When the idea of Lewis & Clark arose, he said the board “needed to sign up wherever we could get water.”

“We do not have a lot of excess,” Engels said. “We’re going to be looking for the next (connection). When Lewis & Clark expands, we’re going to be looking for more.”

Larson said Lewis & Clark’s current system is built to supply 45 million gallons a day to its member communities, but everything was sized to deliver up to 60 million gallons a day. That means it can eventually expand the water supply to member communities, but it will come at a cost to upsize treatment plants and wells.

“There will be an opportunity for LPRW and others to reserve more capacity,” Larson said.

Meanwhile, discussions began in May about Lewis & Clark II, a proposal to increase capacity and expand the system further.

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“We’re not even done with what we’ve started and we’re already talking about what we do for the next phase of Lewis & Clark,” Larson said.

Jerry Lonneman, a rural Adrian farmer, talked of Nobles County’s need for water when he joined the commission nearly 20 years ago, and how Lincoln-Pipestone’s willingness to deliver water to the area was a blessing.

“If they hadn’t been able to give up some of their water … we would have never had any water,” said Lonneman, who extended his thanks to individuals Red Arndt, chairman of the Lewis & Clark board, Larson and Worthington Public Utilities General Manager Scott Hain for their lobbying efforts to get federal funding — and then state funding advances — to bring Missouri River water to southwest Minnesota.

“If it wouldn’t have been for that bonding money, we wouldn’t be here,” Lonneman said. “We’ve had a lot of young people come back to this area to farm because of the additional water that we have.

“It’s a big day for us to have this water. We’ve waited a long, long time for it,” he added.

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Lewis & Clark Regional Water System board chairman Red Arndt (left) and Lincoln-Pipestone Rural Water board chairman Earl DeWilde pose in front of the meter building and pumping station that connects the water supply to serve LPRW customers in southwest Minnesota. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)

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