Minnesota Republican lawmakers celebrate $22 million in funding - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

Minnesota Republican lawmakers celebrate $22 million in funding for Lewis & Clark

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Republican state lawmakers toured Minnesota Monday, stopping in Luverne to review the 2014 legislative session, which just wrapped up last week.

One of the biggest accomplishments the group had to share was 22 million in funding to continue construction of the Lewis and Clark pipeline.

After nearly 25 years of working to secure federal funding, the City of Luverne Minnesota will have water from the Lewis and Clark water system next fall.

“It was somewhat of a surprise here 22, 23 years later I come up to St. Paul as a state senator and we'd be dealing with Lewis and Clark again,” said State Senator Bill Weber.

As a former Luverne Mayor and City Council member, Weber lobbied for Lewis & Clark funding in Washington over the past two decades. But years of waiting for promised funding from Washington forced Minnesota lawmakers to take matters into their own hands.

“The need for this has arisen because of the failure of the federal government not funding their share of the project…and as a result, for us to get water now, it’s been necessary for us to step forward to fund that portion here in Minnesota,” said Weber.

Governor Mark Dayton brought Southwestern Minnesota’s Lewis and Clark project to the forefront during his state of the state address this April.

“We did have such strong support from Governor Dayton that he would have vetoed the bonding bill if Lewis and Clark water wasn't part of the bill,” said Luverne Mayor Patrick Baustian.

With the help of Republican lawmakers in the southwest district, the state’s Republican Party also made Lewis and Clark a key issue in this year’s bonding bill with a democrat-controlled legislature.

“The one thing democrats actually need republican votes is on the bonding bill; it requires a three-fifths majority. So we said, without Lewis and Clark being in the bonding bill, there won't be a bonding bill. This issue is important enough to bring it to the forefront—when you're talking about somebody's drinking water, that's really more important than a park in Minneapolis or St. Paul,” said House Republican Leader Kurt Daudt.

Mayor Baustian said are lawmakers originally asked for $69 million to fully fund the entire Lewis and Clark project in Minnesota.

“It would have been nice to get water to Worthington this year…Worthington is in dire need,” said Baustian.

The City of Worthington and the Lincoln Pipestone Rural Water System will have to wait a little longer to figure out funding, but the $22 million from the state is moving the Lewis and Clark pipeline in the right direction.

“Construction will start this summer yet, so we're expecting to have water in the fall of 2015,” said Baustian.

State and local lawmakers say this state funding does not let the federal government off the hook; the $22 million is simply an advance for construction. They fully expect the federal government to come to an agreement and reimburse their promised portion of the Lewis and Clark project.

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