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Lewis and Clark Regional Water System

It has taken more than two decades for the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System to move from an idea on paper to reality.

The South Dakota-based water service provider was first incorporated in 1990, with a plan to serve rural communities in South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota. But more than 10 years went by before enough government funding was in hand to begin construction.

In July 2012, the company finally began delivering water in a portion of its 5,000-square-mile service territory. When the system is completed, it will provide drinking water to over 300,000 people.

“That’s the reality of funding a project like this,” said Troy Larson, Lewis & Clark’s executive director. “Unfortunately, just because the government approves the project and commits to the funding, it doesn’t mean that you actually receive the cash.”

CoBank has been another key source of financing for the utility. The bank provided Lewis & Clark with a loan for the purchase of its administrative building in Tea, South Dakota, as well as a line of credit that can be used for short-term financing on an as-needed basis, which Larson says gives him “peace of mind.”

“We had never worked with CoBank before and were pleasantly surprised at what they could offer,” Larson said. “They provided attractive terms and a degree of flexibility that you just don’t get with other lenders. Now, we wouldn’t make a financial move without at least checking with CoBank first.”

Larson says turning on the taps at Lewis & Clark is already making a difference in terms of economic development in the communities it serves. “We’ve seen several examples of companies that have chosen to bring their businesses into our service territory because of the reliable water service we are able to provide,” Larson said. “That’s good for our customers, their local economies and, ultimately, the people who call those communities home.

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