Lewis & Clark lays ‘Pipe in the ground’

Lewis & Clark lays 'Pipe in the ground' Loiseau Construction, Flandreau, the contractor for the Highway 19 construction project, installed the 72-inch casing for the Lewis & Clark Rural Water System under the highway Monday. A 54-inch raw water pipeline for the rural water system eventually will be routed through the casing under the highway to the system's water treatment plant. (Photo courtesy of Lewis & Clark Water System) by David Lias Groundbreaking to mark the start of construction of the Lewis & Clark Rural Water System is scheduled near Vermillion next week.

A milestone event in the system's development occurred Monday, Aug. 11, however.

The rural water system officially has "pipe in the ground," said Troy Larson, executive director.

"Today (Monday) was the official first day of construction for Lewis & Clark," he said. "I was just down by Vermillion, and my feet are all muddy yet.

"We had a 72-inch casing installed under Highway 19 just a few miles north of Vermillion," Larson said.

The casing is 90 feet long. "Today (Monday) is the very first day we have pipe in the ground," he said.

A 54-inch raw water pipeline for the Lewis & Clark rural water system eventually will be routed through the casing under Highway 19 to the system's water treatment plant, which will be constructed in southwest Clay County.

"We lined this up for where we want our water treatment plant to be � we've already secured land for that," Larson said. "We don't need this right now, but the reason we installed it right now is we could save about 50 percent on the cost by doing it now when the road is ripped up as opposed to boring under it later."

About a 10 mile stretch of Highway 19 from Vermillion north has been closed for much of the summer as workers widen, grade, and add asphalt surfacing. Estimated completion time of the highway project is this November.

A production test well for the Lewis & Clark project already has been installed near the Missouri River.

"For Bureau of Reclamation purposes, a production test well is not part of construction activities," Larson said. "This casing, according to the Bureau of Reclamation, is our first construction activity."

The Lewis & Clark Rural Water System was formally organized in Sioux Falls on April 18, 1990. Several communities from eastern South Dakota met to establish an organization that would develop alternative water supplies for the benefit of its membership.

As the water system plan developed, representatives from communities and rural water systems in Minnesota and Iowa joined the project, and with South Dakota, have overseen development of the Lewis & Clark water plan.

The Missouri River, through careful engineering analyses, was determined to be the most viable and clean water source for the public water systems which make up the Lewis & Clark Rural Water System.

The projected budget for the Lewis & Clark pipeline and treatment plant is $360 million. The project will provide water service to over 200,000 people.

Members of the system in South Dakota are: Sioux Falls, Minnehaha Community Water Corp., Madison, South Lincoln Rural Water System, Beresford. Lincoln Rural Water System, Lennox, Parker, Centerville, Harrisburg and Tea.

Minnesota members are Luverne, Rock County Rural Water, Worthington, and Lincoln-Pipestone Rural Water.

System members in Iowa are

Sibley, Clay Regional Water System, Sheldon, Rural Water Number 1, Sioux Center, Hull, Boyden and Rock Rapids.

"The first priority in 2003 and 2004 will be to install the raw water pipeline in Clay County," Larson said.

Beginning in 2005, construction activity will start in many of the communities that are part of the water system.

That's a change in philosophy. Originally, it was planned that the pipeline network construction would all begin in Clay County and head north towards Beresford and Sioux Falls.

There's a problem with that approach, however. "It doesn't get water to anyone. That's a fairly long stretch of pipe, and we don't have a treatment facility," Larson said. "We don't have anything to pump the water with."

He said if the Lewis & Clark system starts its construction from Sioux Falls and heads south, "we can use water from the city of Sioux Falls and from Minnehaha Community Water Corp. to provide water to such towns as Tea and Lennox to address short-term critical water needs."

A similar approach will take place in Iowa, where four communities will tap into a pipeline that will be installed between Sioux City and Sheldon. In Minnesota, emergency strategic connections will be made between Luverne and Worthington. "That hooks up all four of the Minnesota members," Larson said.

This approach will work because presently many of these member communities still have surplus water they can sell.

"In 10 years though, because of growth, they will need the water from Lewis & Clark," he said. "And some of the communities are in crisis mode already. So what we're doing is we're building the pipeline out of order to address some critical water needs by the members."

Lewis & Clark's member communities and water systems have determined that they can't fully rely on the federal government to fund this project.

"Right now, this is expected to take 10 to 12 years to build, but at the rate that we're getting federal funds, right now we're getting about half of what we're asking for," Larson said.

Stretching the construction time to 20 years or more would make the project too expensive because of inflation. And, Larson said, many of the member communities need Missouri River water soon.

"The members have agreed to loan the money to Lewis & Clark to make up what the anticipated federal funding shortfall will be," he said. "Essentially what we're doing is we're borrowing against our future federal funds. We're not replacing those federal funds, we're simply borrowing against them. We will use a portion of each future federal allocation to pay back the bonds.

"We're trying to front-end load the project to avoid some of the inflation and to keep the project on schedule," Larson said.

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