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Water investments major piece of governor's budget address

The Lewis and Clark Regional Water System water tower in northern Beresford is taller than similar structures in Sioux Falls. The site was chosen for its high elevation, which creates enough pressure to send water to communities in northwestern Iowa.
Slater Dixon
A Lewis and Clark Regional Water System water tower near Beresford (file)

There are millions of dollars just waiting to be spent on South Dakota’s infrastructure. At the governor's budget address, one lawmaker said that money could invest in something we all need – water.

There are $131 Million dollars in ARPA money available to the state government that must be allocated by the end of next year and spent by December of 2026. ARPA is the American Rescue Plan Act.

Gov. Kristi Noem is proposing a bulk of that – around $120 million – to go toward water projects.

State Sen. Helene Duhamel, speaking in support of a new water pipe to the Black Hills, said there is room in this budget.

“Go back a few years and we gave $600 million to water projects, and only $150 million of that has been spent," Duhamel said. "So, all these unspent dollars and another $95 million from these ARPA dollars that are just sitting there are going into existing water projects. That’s great, water is an investment where every citizen benefits, but nothing for new pipelines. That’s heartbreaking to me.”

She said West River, which frequently cycles in and out of drought, needs a proactive government.

“Western South Dakota is in trouble now," Duhamel said. "Current water needs in a situation of drought, and we’re growing. We’re asking for a one-time investment, ARPA dollars or general funds, of $3.5 million to finish our engineering study for our pipeline bringing Missouri River water all the way to the Black Hills.”

Duhamel said this study needs to happen before any shovels hit dirt.

“All we’re trying to do is finish this study," Duhamel said. "Until you have this study done, you can’t even get on the feds radar – you can’t move forward. We can do the engineering, no we can’t build it, but we can engineer it. Until that’s done, we can’t move forward with any federal funding or land acquisition or easements or anything.”

Duhamel also said education funding and investments in South Dakota airports would be on her mind going into legislative session.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture