This past week the Board of Water and Natural Resources – a seven-member citizens board appointed by the Governor – approved more than $406 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grants, plus nearly $700 million in additional grants and low-interest loans, to benefit South Dakotans by investing in water infrastructure projects.
The ARPA grants stem from legislative approval of SB 62, which set aside $600 million in federal fund expenditure authority for eligible water, wastewater, storm water, and nonpoint source projects. This is believed to be the largest single appropriation in the state’s history. It passed both floors unanimously, paving the way for investments that will benefit South Dakotans for decades.
Among the projects approved were improvements in several regional water systems, including the West River Lyman Jones Rural Water System which serves Mellette, Haakon, and Lyman counties, the WEB water system, serving much of northern South Dakota from the Missouri River to the east, and the BDM Rural Water System serving northeast South Dakota. These rural water systems are bringing good-quality drinking water to thousands of South Dakotans but are at or near their maximum capacity.
Another significant project approved by the board was $8 million in ARPA funds for preliminary studies and engineering reports to evaluate whether it is feasible to pipe water from the Missouri River to western South Dakota. The West Dakota Regional Water System is a newly organized entity working to find ways to provide long-term drought resiliency for the western part of the state. This is a project that will take decades to complete, similar to the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System in southeastern South Dakota and neighboring states. This system was incorporated in 1990 and authorized by Congress in 2000. Groundbreaking was held in 2003; it is currently about 90 percent complete.
The Board also approved an additional $1 million to expand enrollment in the riparian buffer strip program. Those who own land along certain targeted waterways can receive incentive payments if they provide a vegetative buffer next to the stream, as a way to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus, bacteria, and other nonpoint source pollution.
In all, nearly 100 entities in all areas of the state received approval to provide clean drinking water, manage wastewater and storm water, or address nonpoint source pollution. These investments are going to create new opportunities for South Dakotans for decades.