Pierre doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to pump much of anything West River. First the PUC delays the Keystone XL oil pipeline hearing; now the state Water Management Board delays the Pringle polygamists’ water-pumping request for the second time this year.
The fundamentalist Mormon “United Order of South Dakota” has run a secretive compound 15 miles southwest of Pringle for a decade or so. No one outside the compound knows for sure, but outsiders estimate about 300 people live there. Toward the end of 2014, the Pringle group applied to the state water board to triple the amount of water it can draw from the Madison Aquifer, from 94 gallons per minute to 300 gallons per minute. National Park Service water rights chief William Hansen estimates that increased water draw could serve 4,372 residents, more than twice the population of Custer.
United Order water honcho Seth S. Jeffs has since asked the Water Management Board to reduce the requested maximum draw rate from 300 gpm to 200 gpm. In that February 18 request, Jeffs says that while his people do not plan to use more water than their current permitted amount, the compound has only one functional well, and that well can’t keep up with summertime usage. The additional well and capacity requested in the pending permit, writes Jeffs, would allow the compound to do maintenance on the existing well without shutting off water access, provide better fire protection, and support additional agricultural production.
The Water Management postponed its hearing of the Pringle application from March to May at the request of one of many permit opponents. Rapid City attorney David Ganje signed on to represent the United Order of South Dakota in the contested permit hearing. Ganje filed one game response to “immaterial, inflammatory, accusatory, and irrelevant” remarks in petitioner filings about the Pringle compound being a threat to twelve-year-old girls, but then quit just twelve days after taking UOSD as a client. The Pringle folks still haven’t found a new lawyer (what? Robert Van Norman is so busy with the Bosworth case that he can’t write up a few letters for the fundie-Mormons?), so the water board has postponed the hearing again, now to July, to give UOSD more time to secure counsel.
The state appears to be delaying this water hearing to ensure due process, much like the PUC in its delay of the Keystone XL hearing. Also like the PUC delay, the water board’s delay is good news for permit opponents, who now have a couple extra months to build up their arguments, strip out the immaterials and irrelevants, and make the best case they can to prevent the problems they think the permit could create in the southern Black Hills.