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Group Seeks Coalition For Missouri River Pipeline To Rapid City Area

Seth Tupper

A water development group is putting together a coalition to bring Missouri River water to the Rapid City region. 

Early estimates indicate the project could cost billions of dollars. 

The idea comes from the West Dakota Water Development District. The district covers Pennington County west of the Cheyenne River, including Rapid City. Nine publicly elected directors serve on the district’s board. 

The district has a study in hand from researchers at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. The researchers say the Rapid City region will eventually need more water than it gets from existing sources in the Black Hills.  

Credit Missouri River Water Allotment Study for Future Use Water Permit 1443-2 / SD School of Mines & Technology
SD School of Mines & Technology
Possible alignments for a water pipeline from the Missouri River to Rapid City.

And they say the water could be drawn from the Missouri River. A pipeline from the river to Rapid City would stretch for 170 miles. It would cost up to $2 billion, according to the Mines study, and would probably need congressional funding. 

Banner Associates is an engineering firm working with the district. The company is talking to cities and water systems that might want to participate in the project. At a meeting Tuesday evening, Project Manager Cheryl Chapman told the water district board about those talks. 

“There’s not official positions, if you will, but good comments ranging from, ‘I’ve got quite a bit of good water, but I’m willing to participate,’ all the way to ‘I could use some water right now,’” Chapman said. 

Over the next few months, Chapman said, she’ll help the water district take the next step. That’s meeting with the interested cities and water systems. By the end of the year, if the interested parties agree, they could form a new group and a charter. 

There are already a number of Missouri River pipelines in South Dakota, both West and East River. Rapid City gets water from wells, and from Rapid Creek. Some of the creek’s water is stored in reservoirs high in the Black Hills. 

The West Dakota Water Development District is funding its pursuit of Missouri River water with taxpayer dollars. A small property tax brings the district about $200,000 in annual revenue. The district paid $37,341 for the Mines study and has a $24,500 contract with Banner Associates. 

Following is an intitial list of groups targeted for contact by Banner. 

Rural Water Districts 

  • Bear Butte Valley Water 
  • Black Hawk User Water District 
  • Perkins County Rural Water System 
  • Rapid Valley Water District 
  • Southern Black Hills Water System 
  • Tri-County/Mni Waste Water Company 
  • Tripp County Water Users District 
  • West River/Lyman-Jones 

Municipality Systems 

  • City of Belle Fourche 
  • City of Box Elder 
  • Town of Buffalo 
  • Town of Hermosa 
  • City of Rapid City 
Seth supervises SDPB's beat reporters and newscast team. He works at SDPB's Black Hills Studio in Rapid City.
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