REGIONAL—The Lewis & Clark Regional Water System, which eventually will serve five N’West Iowa cities, soon may see a flow of increased federal funding.

Lewis & Clark executive director Troy Larson is excited a part of Congress’ recently passed 2019-20 budget includes an additional $117.4 million for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Rural Water Program — $18.6 million more than what was approved the previous year.

When combined with the slight funding increase proposed by President Donald Trump’s administration, it brings the overall 2019-20 fiscal year funding for the Rural Water Program to $132 million, a $19.5 million increase compared to 2018-19.

“We are not going to count our chickens before they hatch, but the increased funding for the Rural Water Program should provide a big lift for Lewis & Clark as we keep construction moving forward,” Larson said. “It’s phenomenal news.”

Because of an earmark ban, the Bureau of Reclamation has to determine how to allocate the additional federal funding among five authorized rural water projects, including Lewis & Clark.

“The earmark ban means that members of Congress can’t advocate for specific funding levels for projects like Lewis & Clark,” Larson said.

“Instead, what they do is they advocate for increased funding for the program,” he said. “In this case, it’s called the Rural Water Program.”

The regional water system likely will receive about the same percentage of additional federal funding for 2019-20 as the previous fiscal year.

If that happens, that would bring Lewis & Clark’s 2019-20 fiscal year funding to approximately $18 million, compared to $15 million for 2018-19.

An announcement from the Bu­­reau of Reclamation on the allocation of funds is expected sometime between the middle of January and early February.

Construction on Lewis & Clark — a tristate drinking water project that involves Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota — is about 82 percent finished.

“A big thank you to the tristate congressional delegation for their continued strong support and leadership,” Larson said. “We would not be where we are today without them. Thanks as well to our great partners at the Bureau of Reclamation.”

He noted how the additional federal funding would affect Lewis & Clark going forward, including the construction of a 2.5 million-gallon water tower east of Beresford, SD, at a cost of $5 million-$6 million.

“We’re also going to be awarding a collector well,” Larson said. “That’s estimated to be 16 million gallons a day of production.

“A collector well is different than a traditional vertical well,” he said. “We right now have all vertical wells and they each produce roughly 3 million gallons a day.”

The regional water system has 11 vertical wells located southwest of Vermillion, SD, near the Missouri River. The collector well will be installed there as well.

“Think of a vertical well as a straw with holes toward the bottom,” Larson said. “For a collector well, visualize that same vertical straw with holes toward the bottom, except at the bottom of the straw there are several straws with holes extending out horizontally in an array.

“Those horizontal straws — called ‘laterals’ — result in significantly more capacity than a vertical well,” he said. “Collector wells are also significantly more expensive.”

The construction of the regional water system’s water tower and collector well — projected to cost $10 million-$12 million — are estimated to take at least two years to complete.

“Because they are so expensive, they also have to be paid for over two years,” Larson said. “The plan is to use some of our FY20 money and then ahead FY21 money.

“What this additional money means is potentially $3 million more in FY20 and we’ll be able to put more FY20 dollars toward the tower and the collector well,” he said.

He explained the ripple effect that would have on two N’West Iowa cities that are members of Lewis & Clark, but are not yet connected to the regional water system.

“We will have to use less money from our FY21 budget,” Larson said. “What that means is, we will have more FY21 funding to use toward the line between Hull and Sheldon.”

He noted the pipeline work being done between Sioux Center and Beresford — two other Lewis & Clark members — is estimated to be completed by the end of 2020.

“They have almost all the pipe in the ground between Beresford and the Big Sioux River,” Larson said. “They had hoped to start on the pipeline at Sioux Center and work toward the west, but wet weather slowed them down, so they plan to start that this spring.”