Federal funding for Western water projects includes $22 million for Mni Wiconi
Big Bend Dam on the Missouri River in South Dakota. The Mni Wiconi water pipeline, which brings water from the river to rural users, cities and Native American reservations, is receiving more than $20 million in federal funding for upgrades and maintenance. (Courtesy Army Corps of Engineers)
The Biden administration will send $585 million to water projects in 11 Western states, Interior Department officials said Wednesday.
The funding, provided in the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law, will go toward 83 projects in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, California, North Dakota and Washington. The law provided $8.3 billion for water infrastructure projects over five years.
South Dakota’s funding includes $22.17 million for maintenance and upgrades to the Mni Wiconi pipeline that brings water from the Missouri River to cities, rural users and Native American reservations in the central and western parts of the state. The money will fund backup generators, watermains, a storage tower near Kadoka, replacement of an eroded crossing under the White River, and replacement of an aging booster station.
Additional South Dakota funding of $2.16 million will go to the town of Kenel, on the Standing Rock Reservation, where 3,200 feet of asbestos-cement water pipes will be replaced with modern polyethylene pipe.
Speaking to reporters by phone Wednesday, administration officials said the funding was part of a government-wide effort to respond to persistent drought conditions that have caused increased wildfires in Western states and threaten future drinking and agricultural water supplies.
The 23-year drought “has culminated in critically low reservoir conditions in the Colorado River Basin and across the West, putting a strain on our people, our farms, our wildlife and their habitats and our very livelihoods,” Interior Deputy Secretary Tommy Beaudreau said.
The funding will be used to repair water storage, water treatment and hydropower facilities.
Wednesday’s announcement coincided with a visit by administration officials to the Imperial Dam that spans the Colorado River on the Arizona-California border, and they gave particular attention to that river system, which supplies water to 40 million people.
“We’ll use every available resource and tool at the federal level to protect the Colorado River system and the critical services it provides to millions of people in countless ecosystems,” Beaudreau said.
The projects, selected by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Reclamation that manages water resources in Western states, are in every major river system in the West, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton said.
The list includes 27 projects in North Dakota and 24 in California. No other state had more than six projects selected.
California alone accounted for more than half of the funding, with $307.8 million allocated to projects in the state. North Dakota will receive $80.2 million.
Colorado projects will receive the third-most money, at $68.3 million.
The largest single project is a $66 million building modernization of the Trinity River Hatchery in California.
Among the other costliest projects selected is a $56 million allocation to finalize the “planning, design and subsequent construction” of a water treatment facility and chemical storage building at the Leadville, Colorado, mine drainage tunnel.
That tunnel siphons heavy metals from nearby mines out of groundwater that flows to the headwaters of the Arkansas River.
A full list of projects is available here.
— South Dakota Searchlight staff contributed to this report.
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