We know better

We know better
Vermillion doesn't need the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System to provide drinking water to its citizens.

Our community is fortunate enough to be able to tap into a well field that is more than sufficient in providing our water needs for years to come.

There are 15 cities and five rural water systems, serving about 300,000 people in South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota, who aren't as fortunate as us.


They need the Lewis & Clark system to transport Missouri River water – which will be treated, by the way, in a new plant scheduled to be constructed in Clay County – to their homes and communities.

Throughout the history of South Dakota, water has been a vital necessity. Vermillion is on the map because of the Missouri, which was key to our city's early transportation and commerce before the railroads.

Today, many communities in our tri-state region are growing so rapidly that they will soon outpace their current water supplies. Sioux Falls is a prime example of this.

So it was more than surprising – stunning is a more appropriate term – when President Bush revealed a budget earlier this week that allocates nothing for Lewis & Clark.

Adding to the disappointment of this news is the anonymous commentary that followed from some citizens on internet blogs hosted by local newspapers.

Some actually praised the omission of federal funding for the water system. Their solution? The communities that need the water should pay for it.

People who offer this remedy conveniently forget the power we yield when we work collectively. Yes, one can argue our taxes are too high, but it's a sure bet that cutting an expected annual allocation of between $20 million and $30 million annually for Lewis and Clark isn't going to make our wallets fatter. That amount is a grain of sand in a proposed federal budget of $3 trillion.

Now in its fifth year of construction, the project has received $100.1 million from the federal government while the 20 local water providers have contributed $106.5 million. The state of South Dakota has paid $12.9 million so far, and Gov. Mike Rounds has introduced legislation that would pay off the state's remaining $19 million contribution during the next three years.

The states of Iowa and Minnesota paid $7 million and $5.4 million respectively and are all paid up.

Completing the project in 2019 would require $35 million a year from the federal government.

It's easy to take for granted elements of our day-to-day life here in South Dakota that are a reality because of the sensible use of government resources made possible by taxpayer dollars.

The Missouri River would still flood annually if we didn't have the ability to harness its flow with the mainstem dams that were constructed decades ago.

We have been able to conquer, to some degree, the wide open spaces of South Dakota with a transportation system that includes a federally-funded interstate highway system. Those ribbons of highway have been around for more than four decades; it's hard to imagine how we lived without them.

Bush somehow can't come up with the needed funding allocation for Lewis & Clark, but Congress surely can – with ease.

All that our federal legislators need to do is stop wasting federal tax dollars – you know, the funds we'll all be rushing to send to Uncle Sam before the dreaded April deadline.

Congress, it seems, loves to spend our money. According to the Heritage Foundation, for example:

  • The federal government spends $23 billion annually on special interest pork projects such as grants to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, or funds to combat teenage "goth" culture in Blue Springs, MO.
  • Over one recent 18-month period, Air Force and Navy personnel used government-funded credit cards to charge at least $102,400 for admission to entertainment events, $48,250 for gambling, $69,300 for cruises, and $73,950 for exotic dance clubs and prostitutes.
  • The Defense Department wasted $100 million on unused flight tickets, and never bothered to collect refunds even though the tickets were reimbursable.

    These three examples represent the tip of the iceberg of federal government waste. We are now supposed to believe that there isn't enough money in federal coffers to provide Lewis & Clark between $20 million and $30 million annually.

    We know better.

    The Vermillion Plain Talk editorials reflect the opinion of Plain Talk editor David Lias. You may contact him at david.lias@plaintalk.net

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