13 years ago, the federal government approved the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System.
It is supposed to provide water from the Missouri River to 20 communities in South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa.
All 20 communities are supposed to be connectED. As of now; only 11 are because the federal government has all but discontinued funding for the project.
One of the nine communities not receiving water is Hull, Iowa.
A city where some big decisions have to be made soon...but those decisions may end up being a bitter pill for residents.
A little more than 21-hundred people live in Hull, Iowa. It's a quiet, peaceful town. Until you start talking about Lewis and Clark.
"We don't have money to continue the project unless the federal government continues to put money into it. What are we gonna do? What are we supposed to do?" Aaron Kooiker is the City Administrator for the city of Hull; a city which was to have started receiving water from Lewis and Clark last year. It didn't happen. It isn't happening and it's not going to anytime soon; despite the fact that the city of Hull and the state of Iowa paid 100% of its portion for the project upfront. Which is a sore point for Aaron Kooiker. "Not only is it 100% paid up....it's gone. The funding that we've used has all gone into the infrastructure that we have in South Dakota at this point."
All the money Hull and the state of Iowa put up was used to built the Lewis and Clark water treatment plant north of Vermillion. A plant that is providing water to some of it's partners, but not all of them. But in Hull, this isn't just a story about being out of luck and being at the mercy of the federal government. The financial breakdown of the Lewis and Clark project threatens to stall...if not outright stop....economic development in this town.
"In a food processing plant if you don't have water for your operation that's a great big hurdle that has to be overcome before the investment decision would be made." Tim Czmowski is the general manager here....Agropur...a cheese making facility in Hull. They employ 130 people. They do business with dairies within a 100 miles radius. Five years ago, this place didn't exist. Now, it is already at 100% capacity and Agropur needs to build another plant. Agropur can get enough electricity and enough workers. But can they get enough water? That question needs to be answered very, very soon. "Water would need to be delivered in early 2015. So the decision needs to come soon."
It would take a miracle for Hull to be connected to Lewis and Clark within the next 17 months. Meaning Hull has to do something soon: their only option is to connect to one of two nearby rural water systems. And while it's good that those systems are nearby, for Hull...it is far from a perfect solution.
"Either way, it is going to cost us a ton of money to get that done. In the 3.5 million dollar ballpark." Three-and-a-half million dollars...on top of the close to two million Hull and the state of Iowa have already invested in Lewis and Clark. And to pay for that three-and-a-half million....Hull residents will likely ending paying more in city taxes and fees.....and no one is unhappier about that than City Administrator Aaron Kooiker. "There's no way to say it without being vulgar that we're upset. The federal government turned its back on us. It's just a frustrating situation."
And if you're asking yourself...why doesn't Hull take a pass on the Agropur expansion....keep this in mind: Agropur's current economic impact on this area is 500 million dollars....a year. "With our plant two expansion, it will be greater than that. So we'll be over a billion dollars added to the region In economic development and sometimes folks don't understand...that's every year. A billion dollars comes to this region."
In Hull, Iowa this is more than just about having water.
It is about how solid their economic future will....or won't....be.
If the federal government had lived up to it's promise, Hull would be receiving Lewis and Clark water right now and this wouldn't be an issue.
But it is.
The federal government's outstanding portion of Lewis and Clark funding totals $201.3 million.
For fiscal year 2014, the feds have set aside for Lewis and Clark.....$3.2 million.