PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A pipeline system that provides treated water to thousands of customers in northeastern South Dakota received the green light Wednesday to reserve another 10,000 acre-feet of water annually from the Missouri River.
The reservation would expire after seven years if the board doesn’t extend it. State law says that future-use permit holders such as WEB must formally seek a water permit from the board when any plan to use the reserved water becomes definite.
WEB intends to take the water from the Missouri River at the system’s intake site approximately 10 miles southeast of Mobridge. The pipeline serves users in Walworth, Edmunds, Brown, Campbell, McPherson, Potter, Faulk, Hand, Hyde, Spink, Beadle, Marshall, Day and Clark counties in South Dakota as well as Emmons, McIntosh and Dickey counties in North Dakota.
The latest 10,000 acre-feet represents WEB’s fourth future-use permit. WEB currently uses all 10,000 acre-feet reserved under one of the future-use permits and 5,000 of the 20,000 acre-feet reserved under a second permit. The association’s third future-use permit reserves another 10,000 acre-feet.
When WEB received the third future-use permit, the association’s plan called for a 30-inch diameter raw-water line and new treated-water main line. The plan has expanded to a 49.5-inch diameter line that can carry up to 53.3 million gallons per day, equal to 60,000 acre-feet of water annually.
The fourth future-use permit takes WEB’s reservation to 50,000 acre-feet annually. WEB intends to someday request reservation of another 10,000 acre-feet, according to a report from engineer Mark Rath of the state Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, whose responsibilities include overseeing water rights.
State water-rights chief engineer Eric Gronlund recommended Wednesday that the board approve the fourth future-use permit for WEB.
State law requires legislative approval for most applications for appropriation of water in excess of 10,000 acre-feet annually.
“Technically, it does not require the legislative approval step,” Gronlund said about WEB’s 10,000 acre-feet request.
He said the department was preparing legislation for the 2024 session that seeks lawmakers’ approval of a future-use application from Lewis & Clark Regional Water System to reserve 19,121 acre-feet annually from the Missouri: Elk Point aquifer that underlies approximately 219,100 acres of Clay, Union, and Yankton counties.
Board member Leo Holzbauer of Wagner questioned why South Dakota was approving a future-use permit that included parts of North Dakota.
Gronlund explained that WEB’s “primary focus is serving people in South Dakota” but state law allows water to be used outside South Dakota. He added that a North Dakota system provides water in South Dakota’s Perkins County and that water from Minnesota serves people in eastern South Dakota.
Board member Tim Bjork of Rapid City asked whether there is a plan for use of Missouri River water.
Gronlund said the department is following state water-rights laws. “We’re not near fully appropriating that resource. We’re barely tapping it,” Gronlund said. He added that all of the Missouri River’s water that’s appropriated or reserved for future use in South Dakota would total 1% of the river’s water flowing past Sioux City.
Bjork in turn suggested the state water plan should be reviewed to see how it fits “with everything happening today” involving the Missouri River.