Option aids city’s future water supply

Sioux Center utilities manager Murray Hulstein explains the Lewis & Clark Regional Water expansion and why he supports it to the Sioux Center City Council at its meeting Monday, Aug. 31.

SIOUX CENTER — Though water from the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System isn’t projected to be part of Sioux Center’s drinking water until 2023, the Sioux Center City Council verbally supported being part of a future expansion idea.

Lewis & Clark, incorporated in January 1990 and the congressional authorization was signed into law in July 2000, is a nonprofit wholesale provider of water to its member cities and rural water systems in southeast South Dakota, N’West Iowa and southwest Minnesota.

The water source is a series of wells that tap into the Missouri River water basin and has a treatment plant near Vermillion, SD. Construction began in 2004 and Lewis & Clark started delivering water in 2012. The system currently serves water to 15 of its 20 members. Members yet to be connected include Hull, Sioux Center, Sheldon, Sibley and Madison.

City utilities manager Murray Hulstein informed the city council at its Monday, Aug. 31, meeting that Lewis & Clark is beginning preliminary discussions on expanding the system from 45 million gallons per day to 60 million gallons per day.

Hulstein, who is one of the original members of the Lewis & Clark board, said Lewis & Clark is requesting preliminary, nonbinding indications from its members regarding who is interested in participating in the expansion by the end of the year. Lewis & Clark is hoping for more formal final commitments by the beginning of 2023.

Water system director Troy Larson, in a letter to the Lewis & Clark board, said construction is estimated to start in eight to 10 years, noting that Sioux Falls, SD, demands could accelerate the timeline but at this time that is not expected to happen as the city still has 11 million gallons per day of capacity to access.

Larson said participating members would need to have 100 percent of their expansion funding on hand before construction begins as there would not be any state or federal financial participation. Sioux Center’s estimated portion, if all existing members participate, would be about $1.26 million — a number that could grow by the time construction is ready to begin.

Hulstein said this construction would mainly add holding basins at the water plant, that existing infrastructure could be used to get that water to its communities.

“Our well source right now is doing OK for us,” Hulstein said. “We’re able to meet the community’s demands on a daily basis, but if we lose one of our good wells, we’d have to do restrictions. What participating in this expansion does for us gives us sufficient water supply for the future.”

Lewis & Clark water is also much softer water, which isn’t as hard on infrastructure.

“The quality of the water will be second to none,” Hulstein said, noting the water the city produces has 39 grades of hardness and requires adding water softener to it. The Missouri River basin water has seven grades of hardness. “Now that water will be blended with Sioux Center’s, but it still will improve local water quality.”

The ability for the community to use less softener will also give a need, Hulstein said, as in five years the city’s wastewater plant will have a chloride restriction.

“That’s basically a restriction in how much softener salt may be used,” Hulstein said. “There will need to be a reduction in use by commercial and residential users so having better, softer water will help aid that reduction.”

Sioux Center’s average daily use during the summer is 1.5 million gallons of water a day. It’s annual daily average is about 1 million gallons.

“There’s only a certain amount of water around here,” Hulstein said. “Our shallow aquifer is really good right now but it’s certainly susceptible to drought. The Missouri River basin has had water for thousands of years. It’s our recommendation to participate in this expansion.”

Emergency water supply

In other water-related matters, the city council also approved a mutual emergency water supply agreement with Rural Water System No. 1, which would allow both entities to back the other entity up with emergency water.

The agreement specifies that Rural Water will put a pump line in Sioux Center’s water plant. Rural Water will then be able to pump water into the line they recently installed to the Sioux Center water plant. This line, Hulstein said, under normal conditions will deliver water to the city of Sioux Center. Under emergency conditions, the pump installed will reverse flow and send treated water to the rural water system.

The cost of that water, developed by engineers, will be $1.22 per 1,000 gallons.

The agreement also specifies that the city will install a water line and connect to Rural Water’s raw, or untreated, water line at the Rural Water plant a half-mile west of Sioux Center. Sioux Center will then deliver that water through its existing raw service line for the water to be treated at the city’s water plant. Rural Water would charge $0.76 per 1,000 gallons for this raw water.

COVID-19 relief

The city council also approved a reimbursement request of up to $180,744.73 in eligible expenditures related to the coronavirus public health emergency.

Sioux Center city manager Scott Wynja told the council that as part of the CARES Act, the state of Iowa has allocated funds to be distributed to Iowa cities to cover expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the formula, cities can capture funds related to costs associated with public health and public safety employees.

The reimbursement, which may come in installments, comes from the Iowa COVID-19 Government Relief Fund.