A public board is spending more money to study a potential Missouri River pipeline to the Black Hills area.
The board of the West Dakota Water Development District voted last week to spend up to $79,030 to keep investigating the idea. Most of that money will go toward a water-usage study to determine what entities might participate in the project, how much it might cost and whether it would be financially feasible.
West Dakota board member Nathan Gjovik compared the Black Hills pipeline idea to the Lewis and Clark pipeline on the east side of the state. That project is 30 years old and still not finished.
“We needed to start this probably a decade ago,” Gjovik said during a recent board meeting. “But be that as it may, here we are. We need to move this thing forward.”
The board also approved using some of the money to set up a new nonprofit coalition. The coalition could consist of the water district and other interested cities and water groups. Pennington County, Rapid City, Box Elder and Deadwood have already submitted letters supporting further study of the idea.
The West Dakota Water Development District's board has shepherded the effort so far. The district covers the portion of Pennington County west of the Cheyenne River, where property owners pay a small tax to the district.
Prior to approving the next phase of work on the idea, the district’s board already had a $24,500 contract with Banner Associates for initial research and coalition-building.
The board also paid $37,341 for a prior study by South Dakota Mines professors and students. That study predicted the Rapid City area could suffer water shortages in the future, due to extended drought or population growth. The city currently gets water from Rapid Creek, Pactola Reservoir and wells.
The Mines study said a Missouri River pipeline to the Black Hills could cost $2 billion and would likely require congressional funding.
-Contact reporter Seth Tupper by email.