Keeping Lewis & Clark on track

Keeping Lewis & Clark on track
When President Bush visited Sioux Falls on March 9, 2001, he made the following statement: "A priority is to work with states on important development projects. And the Lewis and Clark Rural Water Project is a project that will be in my budget, and something that we can work together on." According to the White House website, this statement was greeted by applause.

Well, the clapping has stopped, as President Bush recently decided not just to reduce funding for Lewis & Clark, his new budget actually zeroes it out! This means the President wants to stop construction on this critically important drinking water project dead in its tracks, an action which – if not corrected, will wound or even kill economic growth in southeastern South Dakota.

Having spent the last 22 years representing South Dakota in Congress, very little surprises me anymore, but this was shocking.


It makes me wonder, frankly, whether the president has a grudge against South Dakota, for reasons which escape me.

After all, it was his administration which proposed to close Ellsworth Air Force Base two years ago – a proposal reversed by the base-closing commission, due in large part to the very effective, bipartisan work done by the entire South Dakota congressional delegation and Governor Mike Rounds.

And it's clearly going to take another herculean effort by the congressional delegation to reverse this short-sighted position and fund Lewis and Clark as best we can.

The problem is simple: according to a study done in 1999 by the Government Accountability Office, "good-quality water is in short supply," and the shallow aquifers in the area often "hold insufficient quantities of water for expanding populations and economic activity, and quantities can be limited during times of drought. Also, the groundwater commonly obtained from these shallow aquifers is vulnerable to contamination from nitrates and pesticides."

It goes beyond improving the quality of the water our state receives, but also meeting increasing demand driven by the thousands of new residents moving to Sioux Falls and neighboring communities.

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