Sheldon contemplating pulling the drain plug on Lewis and Clark

SHELDON, Iowa – The Lewis and Clark Regional Water System has been in the works for more than 20 years, but with a lack of federal funding, several of the 20 members who have paid millions to get hooked up to a reliable water system are still in limbo. A cheese factory in Hull Iowa, ethanol plant in Luverne and meat packing plant in Worthington cannot expand, due to lack of water.

And apparently, the city of Sheldon has had enough. They were to have started receiving water last year, but still aren’t connected. There is a plan to move forward, but the idea that could save it might cost them Sheldon’s membership.

Next month the Lewis and Clark board of directors will vote on a plan to raise $18.4 million. It would be used to continue water pipeline construction to Luverne. The money would come from all 20 partners already invested in the project. If this plan is approved, Sheldon will be asked to kick in $700,000.... on top of the $2.5 million they already have invested.

According to several sources, one councilman said he was ready to abandon the project if a capital call is made. He asked fellow council members to declare the project abandoned so the city can get its initial investment back. The council held off during last night’s meeting, but city manager Scott Wynja is frustrated with Lewis and Clark. Wynja represents Sheldon on the Lewis and Clark board of directors, and said when the board votes on the fundraising idea, he said he will be voting no. He’s currently negotiating with nearby Lyon and Sioux Regional Water Systems to see if they can supply Sheldon with the water it needs to grow.

Due to the lack of federal funding, no construction is planned for 2013 and 2014. Engineering work and land acquisition has been halted. 20 members have prepaid $153 million. Based on recent federal funding levels and inflation, the project will never be finished.


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