Irrigation permits soar in South Dakota in 2013

Farm Forum

YANKTON (AP) — The number of irrigation permits issued in South Dakota last year soared to a record as farmers continued recovering from a devastating drought in 2012.

The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources issued 354 irrigation permits in 2013, more than doubling the 2012 total of 174. In 2011, only 62 permits were issued.

About 40 percent of last year’s permits were issued in five southeastern counties that were hard-hit by drought in 2012 — Yankton, Bon Homme, Clay, Hutchinson and Turner counties, the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan reported.

Drought was the main factor in the permit increase last year, but higher crop prices and lower interest rates also had an influence, according to state natural resources engineer Ron Duvall. The three factors created “the perfect storm” for more interest in irrigation, he said.

Under South Dakota law, water right permits are necessary for commercial irrigation or the irrigation of any area more than one acre in size. In 1976 and 1977, two other drought years, South Dakota issued more than 500 irrigation permits each year.

South Dakota has almost fully recovered from the most recent drought and corn prices have fallen from last year. Duvall said he expects only about 100 irrigation permits to be issued this year.

“At this point, things have pretty much returned to what I would call normal,” he said. “The rush is over.”