Senators Press Key Budget Official to Prioritize Funding for Project
The senators sent a bipartisan letter to Acting Office of Management and Budget Director Jeffrey Zients, urging him to prioritize funding for the water project as he begins to finalize decisions about funding levels in the administration's upcoming budget. Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Tim Johnson (D-S. Dak.) and John Thune (R-S. Dak) also signed the letter.
The text of the letter is below.
February 11, 2013
Dear Director Zients:
As you make your final decision about funding levels in the Administration's fiscal year (FY) 2014 budget, we write to urge you to give priority to projects such as the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System that have local buy-in and segments that could be readily completed should funding be made available.
The authorization of this system in the Lewis and Clark Rural Water System Act of 2000 (Title IV of P.L. 106-246) recognized the strategic value of developing a regional water system to provide ample supplies of clean water for basic needs, as well as supporting rural economic development in multiple communities. When completed, this Lewis and Clark Regional Water System will deliver high-quality and dependable water through 337 miles of pipe to more than 300,000 residents in 20 communities in Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota.
The development of this system has gotten off to a strong start and already is serving about half of the participating communities. However, this project is now at a critical juncture because the federal funding commitment has lagged behind. Thus far, the federal government has only contributed about 50 percent of its share, while the state and local entities' contributions have been paid in full.
With an annual federal investment of $35 million starting in FY 2014, Lewis & Clark estimates the project could be completed by 2022. Lewis & Clark assures us that over $35 million worth of construction contracts are on the shelf and ready for award as soon as funding becomes available, with the ability to allocate this level of funding consistently in the out years. Comparatively, with a hypothetical $10 million annual budget the system would not be completed until 2050. As you can see, the project becomes more expensive the longer it waits on the federally authorized share.
We fully appreciate the balancing of priorities that must be considered while putting together the Administration's budget, and accordingly, ask that you recognize Lewis & Clark as a priority in the upcoming FY 2014 budget. Thank you for your consideration.