Lewis and Clark funding through MN bonding bill could be in jeopardy

ST. PAUL – Rep. Rod Hamilton is asking for the help of all southwestern Minnesotans. According to Hamilton, Rep. Alice Hausman, Chair of the House Capital Investment Committee, approached him on Friday to tell him there is not enough money to fund the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System in the upcoming bonding bill.

“I was absolutely floored,” Hamilton said. “In essence, she threw us under the bus.”

Rep. Joe Schomacker and Hamilton, along with Sen. Bill Weber, have championed the cause of Lewis and Clark, working tirelessly to get the money needed to bring the pipeline into the state. The local entities have paid their share of the cost as has the state, but the federal government failed to live up to their end of the deal. Governor Mark Dayton made a promise to include at least $20.2 million in the bonding bill, but it seems as even that may be in jeopardy.

Hausman told Hamilton Minnesota House Speaker Paul Thissen is driving the bus on this, so Hamilton is encouraging people to contact Thissen at 651-296-5375. Governor Dayton’s office can be reached at 651-201-3400. Just like the Highway 60 project, Hamilton said, the people of southwest Minnesota need to let the governor and the speaker know how important this issue is to the area.

“Ask them to fund the Lew and Clark Regional Water System – make sure it is in the bonding bill,” Hamilton said. “Our economic growth depends on this, and it’s the right thing to do.”

Hamilton said the coalition of people working on the funding are not unreasonable and will take what they can get, even if it is just the $20.2 million Dayton originally set out in his bonding bill. Recently, the governor met with Worthington Mayor Al Oberloh, Worthington Public Utilities Manager Scott Hain and several others involved in Lewis and Clark recently met with Dayton and were told if the Senate passed a $1.2 billion bonding bill, the entire $69 million to bring the project to Worthington would be funded.

“This is the most vital nutrient known to life,” Hamilton said. “And they are spending $90 million on a Taj Mahal. I think there’s posturing going on, I think there is partisan politics, and it is absolutely ludicrous. We have the money to fund snow machines, sculpture gardens and community centers, and they aren’t crucial to life. It doesn’t make any sense to me.”

Hamilton said the legislators involved don’t understand the magnitude of the project and how far the pipeline for Lewis and Clark needs to go.

“They came down here two years ago at my invitation and literally ran out of gas,” he said. “They didn’t realize the towns were so far apart.”

Hamilton said when people contact Thissen and Dayton, they should ask for their support on the Lewis and Clark project, and ask them to put politics and partisanship aside.

“Let’s all band together and do what is right for southwestern Minnesota,” he said. “Let’s work together and get this done.”

Thissen can also be contacted via email at rep.paul.thissen@house.mn or via Twitter @PaulThissen. Governor Dayton can be emailed at mark.dayton@state.mn.us or contacted via Twitter @GovMarkDayton.

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