Groundwater resolution survives fight in S.D. House

Farm Forum

PIERRE — Two-thirds of the S.D. House Republicans rose up on Feb. 26 against a resolution calling for protection of groundwater in South Dakota to be managed in response to technology changes.

They fell short of stopping the resolution from Rep. Troy Heinert, D-Mission. The resolution, House Concurrent Resolution 1025, was approved 36-30.

Behind the scenes, lobbyists for Powertech and Dakota Rural Action were on opposite sides of the matter.

Powertech plans to use the in-situ process for mining uranium in the Dewey-Burdock area of southwestern South Dakota.

The process involves injecting water laden with extra oxygen into the ground. The solution frees the uranium from the ore. Recovery wells return the water to the surface where the uranium is removed.

Heinert had sponsored legislation earlier in the 2014 session that sought to place additional requirements on in-situ mining. The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee killed the bill whose major supporter was Dakota Rural Action.

Heinert said on Feb. 26 he’s glad the resolution came up on state-tribal relations day at the Capitol.

“All we’re saying is the groundwater of South Dakota is important to us,” he said. “The search for water is of the utmost importance.”

Rep. Charlie Hoffman, R-Eureka, signed onto the resolution as a co-sponsor but backtracked Feb. 26. Hoffman said the third paragraph of the resolution is already in state law.

“For reasons of clarity, I don’t really know whether we need the resolution,” he said. “You know how people say House concurrent resolutions don’t mean anything? Well, they might.”

Rep. Steve Hickey, R-Sioux Falls, agreed there is some redundancy but said it’s unfortunate some want to block it on tribal-relations day.

“I’m asking you to vote on this for what it’s in it and not on the politics that surround it,” Hickey said. “It’s like the sunrise. We all like the sunrise. We all like clean groundwater.”

Added Rep. Scott Craig, R-Rapid City, another co-sponsor: “I believe this is simply an exclamation mark on the current statute.”

Rep. Roger Solum, R-Watertown, said the resolution is too restrictive. He wondered whether construction sites and basement sump pumps would be affected.

“I think we’re simply a little over the top,” he said.

Rep. Tona Rozum, R-Mitchell, asked what happens to run-off from large parking lots and even from her driveway.

“Is this impacting that sort of thing?” she said.

“No. This is common sense,” Heinert responded.

The resolution now goes to the Senate.