Polygamist Compound Near Pringle Wants More Water; Permit Hearing Delayed Again

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.

64 Responses to Polygamist Compound Near Pringle Wants More Water; Permit Hearing Delayed Again

  1. Deb Geelsdottir

    Even 200 gpm sounds like a lot. As water reserves diminish, it doesn’t seem wise to allow one small collection of people to more than double their permit.

    And then, there’s the natural revulsion I feel about a cult wherein the girls and women are completely vulnerable to a patriarchal/monarchical hierarchy that answers to no laws, as if they are their own little country. Ick.

  2. Never in my wildest dream did I think I would say anything much less write something which could be a defense of this cult.

    That said, if this were a socialist hippie commune would you make the same inferences like their attorney quit because he discovered something nefarious? Our system of due process demands such is not to be considered just like own’s right not to self-incriminate.

    Would you use the per capita water usage quote and leave out the fact it doesn’t include usage for sustainable agriculture practices?

    I could go on but you know you wouldn’t say what you did if the profile of the applicant were different. By definition, it is bigotry.

  3. Troy, read my post, not your imagination. I make no such implication about Ganje’s withdrawal from representing the UOSD. I only report the facts that led to this second delay.

  4. larry kurtz

    Troy’s cult has murdered or raped maybe a billion people and he decries a blog post: kinda makes me want to hurl.

  5. larry kurtz

    Think Troy would defend Janet Reno’s choice to raid the Branch Davidian cult at Waco? Of course not.

  6. Nick Nemec

    Good grief Troy, I had to reread Cory’s story twice to try to find where Cory said the lawyer who quit found something nefarious, I couldn’t find it. What I found was a description of some of the lawyer’s work complete with a link. Get the chip off your shoulder.

    Is the Madison aquifer typically used for irrigation? That is what you’re talking about isn’t it? How much land could be irrigated with this amount of water? Is the water quality in the Madison even suitable for irrigation purposes?

  7. The only relevant facts to this request is: This commune wants to increase their permit to take out of the aquifer the rough equivalent (171 acre feet) of what is used to irrigate192 acres of corn in a year (presuming they took out the maximum 365 days a year) and whether that is detrimental to the health of the aquifer. The Madison aquifer capacity is over 62 million acre feet making their request an increased claim of .0003%.

    When the discussion seems to make relevant the “acceptability of the applicant,” pure scientific considerations with regard to the health of the aquifer can get muddled by potential threats of lawsuits. More important to me, when (not “if” in my mind) we have real evidence with which to pursue this cult legally, I fear they are going to have evidence of harassment, selective enforcement, etc. which could jeopardize the case.

  8. larry kurtz

    The Paul Dudley House should be denied a water meter by the City of Sioux Falls.

  9. larry kurtz

    If Marty Jackley had any balls he’d raid the Sioux Falls Diocese.

  10. larry kurtz

    Curious why the FLDS compound has not pursued becoming a municipality ala the Buffalo Chip.

  11. Larry,

    I’m sure that is rhetorical and you know the answer: If they were a municipality, they would cease to be a private entity and would become a public entity which among other things would preclude their ability restrict you and I to freely enter their community.

  12. larry kurtz

    Hutterian communities are cults: why are they given carte blanche to pollute at will?

  13. Nick Nemec

    Does the board take into consideration that they are requesting more water than required to irrigate all the land they own? By all accounts they own 140 acres and some of that land isn’t farmable because it has buildings and roads on it. I agree the board should not let unrelated issues be a factor in their decision but they shouldn’t let more water rights be granted than can reasonably be used.

    I’ll repeat my previous question, is the water in the Madison suitable for irrigation use? By suitable I mean of the proper quality to not have long term detrimental effects on the land being irrigated? This is an honest question, I don’t know if Madison water is typically used for irrigation. I do know that here in central SD it is a hot water aquifer and is used in geothermal heating applications.

  14. larry kurtz

    Madison water is very hard, Nick and in the long term will make soil incapable of supporting life.


  15. larry kurtz

    Snow and rainwater capture provide much higher quality water for irrigation but the FLDS community wants a fire fighting capacity.

  16. Nick Nemec

    Thanks Larry, my memory told me Madison water is extremely hard and the high mineral load might make it unsuitable for irrigation. I don’t know what fire fighting water needs are in the area. Are they proposing to allow local fire departments use the water as needed? What about when a fire isn’t actually burning? Don’t Madison wells free flow? Do they have to provide some sort of containment system for the flow? Is the terrain suitable for building a pond or dam to contain the flow?

  17. larry kurtz

    They excavated a very large area and aerial photos show it large enough for fire suppression at least within the walls of a mostly wood-built village. I bought a trailer, water tank and gas pump for an incident here.

    Their politics and beliefs may frighten me but the idea of self-reliance and civil disobedience appeal to my feral side.

  18. Nick,

    1) Madison is the primary water source for the cities of RC and Spearfish and is used to irrigate a lot of alfalfa in the Hills. Quality is not an issue.

    2) While deserving of investigation and confirmation, the statement they don’t expect to take more water out in a year than their current permit is relevant. If true, the request is essentially a request is a flow question: They want to be able to draw more water than 94 gpm during certain periods to support what I suspect is their “sustainable agriculture” and when they take their well down for maintenance/repair.

    Part of the “problem” is how aquifer permits are treated/allocated vs. above ground water sources. For instance, a irrigator who wants to request to draw water from a navigable water when the river/creek is full will be treated differently when flow is minimal (e.g. in the Fall). EPA/State regulations of aquifers looks at permits less as “surge permits” but “annual allotments.” Over 20 years ago, DENR went to the feds to try to adopt/accommodate “surge permits” but got nowhere because they didn’t want to open up a can of worms with regard to places where the aquifer draws were principally focused on human drinking water (I also think part of issue was too the Feds didn’t want to have to have a monitoring of whether the user might take water outside the approved surge period). So, whether an applicant wants to take 106 gpm for two weeks or a year, the application says it is for a year.

    P.S. In case my above comment sounds anti-fed or like an accusation of bureaucracy, it is not my intent. Aquifers are different than above ground sources for a lot of reasons which does justify different treatment. One of which is our aquifers are essentially “subsystems” part of a larger “ocean” that is subject to international treaties with Canada.

  19. larry kurtz

    uh, Spearfish Creek irrigates the Spearfish Valley and Rapid Creek irrigates Rapid Valley and is higher quality water than what is pumped out of the aquifer where those two towns get municipal water.

    Go home, Troy: you’re drunk.

  20. larry kurtz

    The Redwater and Belle Fourche irrigate nearly all the alfalfa in the Hills. Battle Creek and Spring Creek do, too.

  21. Nick,

    Larry’s point about fire-fighting may also be relevant. However, I thought fire fighting draws from almost all sources are exempt from permitting or treated so differently getting such a permit is as routine as getting a temporary sales tax license to sell brats during a community parade/celebration.

    At the end of the day, based on what I can discern, opposition to this permit is mostly related to local opposition to this commune being near Pringle. Whether it be cult, hippie commune, or a private retirement community, I think it be best such public decisions be grounded in the merits of the request and not the “attractiveness of the applicant.”

  22. larry kurtz

    Aquifer sources are not considered high quality water for irrigation but fossil water from limestone contains the minerals that made us human.

  23. larry kurtz

    They always pay their property taxes in cash and have been delinquent:


    Note the huge number of Hutterite communities on the water docket:


  24. Roger Cornelius

    The SDGOP is basically a financial cult and they seem to have all the water they need or want.

    I don’t condone the FLDS, but even misguided people need water.

  25. Nick Nemec

    Troy, I’m not questioning the beliefs and other actions of the applicants in this case, their neighbors are. I’m questioning the amount of water they are requesting, if they could possibly use that amount, and what they are intending to do with it.

  26. lar, you should leave those poor people alone. They just want to view wildlife from their tower and peacefully live in red dirt country. You need water to live in red dirt country.

  27. Deb Geelsdottir

    The greatest amount of alfalfa is grown in Butte and Meade counties. There is a reason Newell high school’s nickname is the “Irrigators.” (I know, isn’t that terrible! They call themselves the Gators, understandably.)

    The water to grow alfalfa in that gumbo comes from the Belle Fourche Reservoir through a complex series of mostly open canals throughout the area. By autumn the water level in the reservoir has dropped more than 50%. The Madison Aquifer has nothing to do with it.

    Check your sources Troy.

  28. larry kurtz

    Careful, Deb: some of the Belle Fourche tributaries including the pristine Sand Creek watershed is part of the Madison Formation.

  29. larry kurtz

    are part, rather: Upper Spearfish Creek, too.

  30. Paul Seamans

    Deb, the Newell Irrigators mascot comes from the same era as the Vale Beetdiggers mascot.

  31. larry kurtz

    Here’s a good overview of Black Hills hydrology:


  32. Deb Geelsdottir

    Thanks for the information Larry. Is “part of the Madison Formation” the same as the Madison aquifer? I mean, isn’t it the above ground rainfall that feeds the aquifer? So rain that falls on the formation and flows into the Belle Fourche River and thus fills the reservoir in the spring is not part of the Madison Aquifer until it’s been directed to the fields and soaks into the soil?

    Help me out Larry!

  33. Deb Geelsdottir

    Yes Paul, I know about the Beetdiggers too. I lived in Newell and pastored the churches in Newell, Vale and Zeona for 6 years. They were good years when I got to know wonderful families.

    BTW, no one really knows the Irrigator fight song. And no one likes it. But, and this is really funny, they won’t change it because graduates figure if they had to endure it, so do succeeding classes!!! (I don’t blame them.)

  34. larry kurtz

    Deb, False Bottom Creek flows directly from the Madison Formation then drains into the Redwater. It is mostly intermittent except during Spring runoff. Artesian water from the Madison dumps into Whitewood Creek, too. Northern Hills towns pump directly from the Madison often lowering creek levels. Recharges can go right back into the formation here the Madison is on the surface but at higher elevations it can take hundreds of years to reach it.

    Snowmelt and rainwater charge where the formation tilts vertically. Fire introduces elemental carbon filtering contaminants but suppression has reduced the quality of water in recharge zones.

  35. larry kurtz

    The FLDS plan to drill into the Madison to reach water-bearing rock will be spendy since they probably have to go down 300 feet or so.

  36. larry kurtz

    Curious intersection here in that Azarga is an interested party in the FLDS permit arguing aquifer exchanges when they say their plan to tap the Inyan Kara doesn’t do that.

  37. larry kurtz

    Donald Pay may have some insights on this topic and could describe Black Hills hydrology far better than i can.

  38. larry kurtz

    Both ’94 and ’95 were exceptionally wet Springs: water was pouring out of rock all over the Northern Hills and mudslides caused some problems. The pine beetle has really helped to build supplies by killing off so much of the overgrowth and Rapid is experiencing a building boom tapping into an already sapped system.

  39. Deb Geelsdottir

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge Larry.

    I think it might have been the Spring of 1992 when water was literally shooting out of Doty Springs as if it was a fire hydrant. I’ve never seen anything like that. It only lasted for about a week, but it was spectacular.

    The spring that one crosses just prior to Doty was pouring across so hard that crossing required great care. God, that was so much fun!

  40. Donald Pay

    I don’t have much to add about the hydrogeology, Larry. I’ve forgotten a hell of a lot of this stuff, and I never was as smart as I tried to appear on the subject. I just read and listen to what the local engineers and state, federal and academic hydrogeologists come up with.

    The permitting issue is interesting to me, though. If I recall it correctly, permittees have to provide a description of the beneficial use in their application, and has to provide some connection between the use and how much water they are permitted. Then the state water people decide whether that amount of water for that use is reasonable. I know the state treats irrigation of home gardens for individuals differently than for agricultural crops, but how they deal with gardening in this compound, I suspect, would be similar to how they treat water permits at the Hutterite Colonies.

  41. If the state approves this then it is probably good to go. It’s OK. Let these poor people have some water, my parched brow or not! Did you know that Mr. Pay has never toured or drilled test wells there, and these people have claimed to others that they are not going to hide yellow cake in their shiny new stadium.

  42. Deb and Paul mention those great HS mascot names, and suddenly I wonder: has the Pringle compound sent any kids to school in Custer? Have they applied for home school?

    (Ah! It appears they have, although in 2011, Custer School District refused to say how many home school exemptions it had issued: http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2011/05_06/2011_05_22_Garrigan_NeighborConcerned.htm)

  43. Donald Pay

    Grudz, just so you know, I have found out that the federal government took “Requests for Information” regarding the radioactive waste deep borehole disposal idea, due last December. How much you wanna bet there is a response from a South Dakota entity sitting in the Department offices Senator Rounds promised “to abolish?” If I get time today, I will file my own request for information to get whatever the feds might have from South Dakota on this subject, just so you can be further informed and won’t have to have further delusions. Oh, Grudz, maybe you could ask the state for a copy.

  44. Thank you, Donald.

    It is also about time we demanded our legislators to bring back the power to our DENR. Shifting it off the backs of a local entity gives them the option of saying, “it’s not in our hands, the Feds did it.”

    300 feet is a relatively low cost well in the Hills. 600-700 is where the cost starts to roll. It has also been my belief that high sodium(soft water) soured the soil on irrigation not the hardness minerals, Larry. The Misery River would lie in a hardness zone and irrigation from her has not soured much that I know of. Your statement on the Madison charging the Redwater, the Red feeds Orman and they’ve been irrigating a bunch of hard pan for close to a hundred years.

  45. larry kurtz

    That red dirt suggests the FLDS village is sitting on gypsum karst so whatever water is close to the surface would be nearly unusable so depths of 500+ not impossible. Rainwater is as soft as it get, Les. I remember sitting in a Newcastle cafe some thirty years ago and overheard two old timers saying snow has a higher concentration of nitrogen than rain has but only trace amounts of sodium and preferred snow for winter wheat.

    As far as the Missouri, sediments settle out making diversion water pretty free of dissolved solids. Orman Dam takes water off the bottom of the reservoir where that silt can be deposited in soils now that you make me think about it.

    There are hot artesian wells that pour into Orman: that water has loads of sulfur and salts, too.

  46. Don’t miss page two to get the full picture of these groups. http://www.sltrib.com/news/2451362-155/utah-polygamous-leader-gives-wife-custody and then if you want more reading read the articles here: http://www.sltrib.com/news/polygamy/ Not every newspaper that has a section for polygamy.

  47. Deb Geelsdottir

    Susan, I’ve been in both towns and they are icky. I was vacationing in the Southwest and had read about Hilldale and Colorado City. I was curious and more than a little creeped out.

    I only saw one person one the street, a man. I saw a couple other men driving pickups around town. Since I was towing a camper I may have seemed less threatening. Houses were very large 2-3 storey square boxes, many surrounded by solid concrete walls about 8 feet high. There were no flowers, no curtains in the windows, nothing at all that betrayed even a touch of feminity. It was grim.

    There were many half built, large industrial buildings, unused, with weeds growing in the cracks in the concrete.

    Dirt and dust and ugly. What a horrible place to live.

  48. Deb, yes that is a very desolate area. It is a very controlled life for the women and children that live there. I imagine the same thing goes on with the group in Pringle. Life is bleak in those towns in my opinion. The children barely get an education. Some of the teenage boys get kicked out of town because they are competition to the old men for women. Some government entity in SD should be paying attention to what goes on in Pringle.
    Nightline did a story recently on a woman who was trying to get custody of her children in Colorado City. http://abcnews.go.com/US/flds-members-mob-follower-wins-custody-children/story?id=30141592

  49. Deb Geelsdottir

    Agreed Susan.

    It seems like basic human decency should compel a thorough investigation by law enforcement. A high likelihood of criminal activity exists there.

    Makes my skin crawl.

  50. mike from iowa

    Is this Jeffs related to Warren Jeffs?

  51. larry kurtz

    mfi: seth jeffs was convicted of aiding and abetting his brother, warren jeffs.

  52. larry kurtz

    Marty Jackley has been bought off by the Jeffs brothers because trafficking in girls is not only protected by South Dakota law after the legislature killed suing clergy, Bendagate and human slavery are good for the SDGOP.

  53. larry kurtz

    You poor bastards.

  54. larry kurtz

    Newland is prescient, Marty Jackley is not only a smug little prick: he’s above the law.

  55. larry kurtz

    and if cory had any balls, he pull the journalistic trigger on the smug little prick.

  56. larry kurtz

    PNR visits here because the religion industry is being exposed brick by brick and Steve Hickey knows it: no doubt collections in the state are down as the Daugaard millstone drowns dissent.

  57. mike from iowa

    Thanks Mr Kurtz.

  58. Mr jeffs is probably related to the same polygamist doing hard time for sexual abuse of minors.

    Warren Steed Jeffs (born December 3, 1955) is a former president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints(FLDS Church) and convicted felon currently serving a sentence of life plus 20 years.[4] His prison term is the result of being convicted of two felony counts of child sexual assault in 2011.[5]http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warren_Jeffs

  59. larry kurtz

    the pleasure is all mine, mfi.

  60. Viking—change “probably related” to “is related”—as Larry mentions above, Seth and Warren are brothers:


  61. Nick Nemec

    I’d go so far as to say every “Jeffs” in that inbred polygamous cult is related to every other “Jeffs” in that inbred polygamous cult. Marrying cousins and nieces is not out of the question, next up, daughters.

    Young men are typically just kicked out, the old bull doesn’t want a young bull hanging around. Any reports of homeless young men being kick out in Rapid City or Cheyenne?

  62. ABC’s 20/20 did a one hour show, May 8, on the FLDS polygamist towns in AZ and UT. This is a brief summary of the show, which should be online in a day I would think. http://abcnews.go.com/US/life-flds-members-fight-child-custody-leaving-polygamist/story?id=30875650 http://abcnews.go.com/US/flds-church-members-fined-million-alleged-child-labor/story?id=30916213
    No doubt this is exactly what goes on in Pringle. Jackley should do something.