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Water resources bill authorizes $15 million for city of Willmar's wastewater treatment project

WILLMAR -- Willmar is authorized to receive $15 million in federal funds to help construct the city's new $80 million wastewater treatment plant and conveyance system. Money for the project is part of the $23 billion Water Resources Development Act.

WILLMAR -- Willmar is authorized to receive $15 million in federal funds to help construct the city's new $80 million wastewater treatment plant and conveyance system. Money for the project is part of the $23 billion Water Resources Development Act.

The act was vetoed by President Bush on Nov. 2, but the president's veto was overridden by the U.S. House with a vote of 361-54 on Tuesday and by the Senate with a 79-14 vote on Thursday.

Minnesota's two senators were among those voting to support the bill, which they say now becomes law.

Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., said the money will be used to build the new plant, located 5Β½ miles west of the present plant, and the conveyance facilities between the current plant and the new plant.

Coleman said the new plant will be less disruptive to the Minnesota River than the current plant, which is 70 years old. He said passage of the act was a "must-do'' for the future of Minnesota's infrastructure.

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"While I appreciate the president's call for fiscal responsibility, short-changing our infrastructure is penny-wise and pound-foolish,'' said Coleman.

"From needed lock and dam upgrades on the Mississippi to a number of local wastewater treatment projects, this bill will mean a stronger economy, a cleaner environment and a better quality of life for Minnesotans,'' said Coleman.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said Willmar's new treatment plant will support continued growth of the city, replace the old plant's failed equipment and help the city comply with more stringent water quality standards.

Klobuchar said the overwhelming, bipartisan vote "speaks volumes about the critical nature of these projects, and that the president's veto is just plain wrong.''

Passage of the Water Resources Development Act bill is good news for Willmar, said Craig Holmes, program manager for Donohue and Associates, the project's consultant.

"We're very thrilled that the program has been authorized. That's an important first step,'' Holmes said.

He said Congress must now appropriate the money for the authorization. Holmes said the House has drafted a water and energy appropriations bill, and he believes that time remains to add Willmar's project.

Money is also being sought from the Legislature. City officials have requested $20 million be included in next year's state bonding bill. The request was made to members of the House Capital Investment Committee during a stop Oct. 26 in Willmar.

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