Sioux Falls mayor: Everyone, help improve water quality

Farm Forum

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) – Cities along the Big Sioux River and residents statewide should commit to helping improve water quality in South Dakota, Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether said on Aug. 30 while promoting the city’s decision to install buffer strips in areas along the Big Sioux and Skunk Creek.

Buffers help trap fertilizer, pesticide and sediment before they reach water, and Sioux Falls has added about 16 acres of buffer strips in 2016 alone, according to the city. In September, Sioux Falls is hosting a Big Sioux River water summit to bring watershed stakeholders together to work to conserve the river as a natural resource.

“I’m hoping that the city of Sioux Falls can maybe help gather the attention of other towns and other cities all across South Dakota,” Huether said. “It needs to be every town, every city, every farmer, every rancher, every citizen in South Dakota that tackles this topic called water, and making it cleaner.”

Sioux Falls has invested money getting buffers installed in agricultural areas, with about 28 stream miles with buffer strips along the Big Sioux and its tributaries, said environmental analyst Jesse Neyens.

Huether said he supports a statewide measure encouraging buffer strip usage, and pledged to be a resource for Gov. Dennis Daugaard in moving a proposal forward. Backers of a bill vetoed earlier this year that would have offered tax incentives to put in buffer strips between farmland and waterways plan to try again during the 2017 legislative session.

Daugaard rejected the plan to offer tax breaks for buffers in March, citing constitutional and property tax concerns over the bill. But his office has said he supports the concept and will offer a buffer strip proposal this year to the Legislature’s Ag Land Assessment Task Force for consideration.

“It’s not going to die easy,” said Barry Berg, watershed coordinator for the Big Sioux River Watershed Implementation Project. “I’d like to see the governor run with something again.”