At a Senate Energy and National Resources hearing today, U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) pushed a plan that would provide $80 million in mandatory annual funding for authorized rural water projects like Lewis and Clark Rural Water System. The hearing examined the Authorized Rural Water Projects Completion Act and included testimony from Lewis and Clark Rural Water System Executive Director Troy Larson and Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Mike Connor.
"I was glad to welcome Troy Larson to testify before the Committee. Today's hearing reaffirmed the need to complete previously authorized rural water projects like Lewis and Clark," said Johnson. "We made important progress on Lewis and Clark in recent years, but limited budgets are causing us to lose ground to inflation. The Authorized Rural Water Projects Completion Act is designed to accelerate construction on Lewis and Clark and other important water projects. The more we delay, the more money existing projects cost taxpayers."
The Authorized Rural Water Projects Completion Act would establish the Reclamation Rural Water Construction Fund within the Bureau of Reclamation. Each year from 2014 through 2029, the Treasury would deposit $80 million into the Fund from money that would otherwise be put into the Reclamation Fund. That money would be available without further appropriation for construction activities on authorized rural water projects, providing much greater certainty to the projects.
With the ban on earmarks, Johnson has worked to find new ways to allocate funding for South Dakota's rural water projects. Earlier this year, as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Johnson worked to include an additional $30 million for rural water projects in the final Fiscal Year 2012 Energy and Water Appropriations bill. Lewis and Clark received $5 million from this, in addition to its direct funding.
"By banning earmarks, we have ceded our power to direct funding for worthy projects like Lewis and Clark to bureaucrats in Washington. There is nothing more important than providing clean drinking water, and the legislation we discussed today would be a new way to ensure funding for these infrastructure projects," continued Johnson.
Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) introduced the Authorized Rural Water Projects Completion Act on July 16, 2012. Johnson is an original cosponsor. Additional cosponsors include Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Al Franken (D-MN), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Tom Udall (D-NM).