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Philip and Midland to have Missouri River water

It may have taken a little longer than anticipated but Missouri River water will soon be flowing through area water lines.

Late last week, West River/ Lyman-Jones Rural Water System employees were taking the final steps that will hook-up a pipeline that will supply Philip with water from the Missouri River. As of Wednesday, November 21, 2007, they were laying pipeline within feet of the tank.

By early 2008, the river water will begin flowing into the Philip reservoir north of town. The City of Midland will have water turned on slightly after the first of the year, or sooner if the town chooses that option. Their system is ready to go with only a formal turn-on date needed.

WR/LJ Manager Jake Fitzgerald noted that some areas will be supplemented with well water, although the towns of Philip and Midland should exclusively be river water. Fitzgerald stated the completion of this project will help supply water during this period of drought that this area has been experiencing.

Fitzgerald stated the water from the river will be soft, but maybe not as soft as from the wells around Creighton and Quinn. He added some people may taste a difference in the water as each water source has a different flavor.

Fitzgerald noted the project was approximately six months a head of schedule, due in part to this fall's warm weather. He said the project has been progressing very well. Following pipeline completion the clean-up and sanitizing of the lines will be done.

In early 2006 WR/LJ began work on the North Core Project, which was originally to be done by the Oglala Sioux Tribe Rural Water System (OSTRWS). The OSTRWS was having budget constraints at that time, so WR/LJ picked-up the project so that water could be brought to this area sooner. Phase I was completed in the fall of 2006. This brought the line from Ft. Pierre to Hayes. Phase II brought the line from Hayes to Philip Junction and then to Philip.

WR/LJ is also finishing up the Ottumwa Distribution Project. This project is in the final stages of clean-up and sanitizing. The 35 miles of line in this project has 20 connections and will be substantially completed around Christmas of this year.

Nine miles of OSTRWS core line coming from the east to Philip Junction near Powell still needs to be completed.

The only other project in the near future for WR/LJ is the Powell Distribution Project. Fitzgerald noted that funding for the project will not be available until fiscal year 2009. A final total of connections has not been completed as sign-ups are still being added at this time.

Senators Tim Johnson and John Thune have introduced a bill in the Senate to extend funding for the Mni Wiconi project. The authority to appropriate funds is due to expire December 31, 2008. This new bill will assure funding will be available for another five years. Mni Wiconi is about 70 percent complete. Areas on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations still need completion.

When completed Mni Wiconi will serve nearly 55,000 people on those two reservations plus the Lower Brule Reservation and people in and around the towns of Philip, Midland, Wall, Cottonwood, Quinn, Hayes, Belvidere, Kadoka, Interior, Murdo, Draper, Kennebec, Presho, Reliance, Vivian and White River.

The entire project covers 12,500 square miles, a piece of real estate larger than some of the states in the eastern United States. It also represents about 16 percent of South Dakota's land.

WR/LJ alone has 3,500 miles of pipeline to date and 2,600 rural users plus cities and towns. They broke ground on their portion of the project in October of 1993. That was almost 30 years from the time West River residents began to gather ideas of getting water to this area.

Bringing potable water to residents and livestock was once a dream of numerous West River residents. That nearly impossible dream is now reality.