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Friends of the Big Sioux River Seek Cleaner River

Hey, you know all that foam you see blowing up from the brownish cascade that gives Sioux Falls its name? It probably came from your intensively tended lawn:

The nonprofit organization called ‘Friends of the Big Sioux River’ says the white stuff is often caused by phosphorus in fertilizers.

Chairperson of the South Dakota Sierra Club and member of Friends of the Big Sioux River Dan Loseke said, “If you’re buying fertilizer that has phosphorus in it, look at that bag and say hey you know what I’m going to change” [Jill Johnson, “The Start of a Beautiful Friendship?” KDLT-TV, 2015.05.14].

The Friends of the Big Sioux River is launching its effort to clean up the 13th-dirtiest waterway in America. The new environmental group is out this morning with other members of the community picking up trash along the river in Sioux Falls. FBSR founding members Matt McLarty and Greg Veerman went on 100 Eyes this week to promote cleaner water through East River’s Queen City. FBSR held a press conference Thursday to say its time to stop ignoring this long-term problem:

“The Big Sioux River didn’t get this way over night. It took decades of neglect. And we always felt in South Dakota, hey you know those are issues in other states. Well it’s an issue here,” said Director of FBSR, Dana Loseke [Sammi Bjelland, “Friends of the Big Sioux Share Vision,”, 2015.05.14].

…and to explain the personal and fiscal reasons to clean up the Big Sioux:

“We’d like to see a river that you can take your dog to and be ok with him or her swimming around in it. And being ok with your child interacting more intimately with the ecosystem of the river itself,” said member of FBSR, Greg Veerman.


…”[Cleaning up the river] means less remediation costs certainly when it comes to water treatment. So there’s an upside in terms of overall costs to the communities. Not just Sioux Falls, but the entire stretch of the river,” said Veerman [Bjelland, 2015.05.14].

…or, to put it in terms the Governor’s Office of Economic Development will understand…

The group says it’s vital to our health, tourism, keeping water treatment costs down, and attracting workforce.

Environmental Law & Policy Center Advocate Matthew McLarty said, “More and more decide on where they want to live and then look for a job rather than following a job” [Johnson, 2015.05.14].

FBSR’s Facebook page links to an article about Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton’s effort to build a legacy on water-quality measures like promoting buffer strips between cropland and waterways. Hmm… I’ll bet the three million dollars South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard spent on Lawrence & Schiller ads to tell America South Dakota isn’t as bad as Mars could have cleaned a lot of phosphorus and other crap out of the Big Sioux.


  1. Paul Seamans 2015-05-16 11:57

    I fear that the Gov. Daugaard’s efforts to bring more CAFO’s into the state will move the Big Sioux’s ranking of most polluted rivers higher on the list.

  2. Don Coyote 2015-05-16 12:16

    While no doubt lawn fertilizer runoff contributes to pollution of the Sioux River, the vast majority of non-point source pollution comes from agricultural runoff. While the phosphates and nitrates can cause algae blooms it’s the choliform bacteria that is the worst of the nasty sludge. While on the river I wear neoprene gloves while paddling and use copious amounts of hand cleanser before touching my face or handling food and drink.

    Last year I took part in Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources Project AWARE for a day canoeing from Gitchie Manitou to the Klondike Mill picking up trash. I was totally amazed by the sheer amount of crap that the flotilla of canoes pulled out of the water. Tires were ubiquitous as they appeared to be the farmer’s favorite material for use in poorly constructed rip rap. Private dumps on farms littered the banks as everything from couches and refrigerators washed into the river bed from the previous months flood waters. The phrase “farmers as stewards of the earth” seemed more of a misnomer than a fact.

    Some 30 tons of garbage was pulled out of 90 miles of river over 7 days.

  3. larry kurtz 2015-05-16 12:55

    Cory helped me to see how badly watershed impairment has harmed my home state and it feels good to be part of exposing South Dakota’s chemical toilet.

    Wyoming has criminalized science: take a photo of agricultural pollution or environmental degradation and go to jail: expect similar legislation to appear in SD’s red state Politburo.

  4. Jana 2015-05-16 13:10

    Would help if the corn growers and “true environmentalists” would get behind the program. Peer pressure can be a good thing.

  5. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-05-16 16:05

    Are fish able to live in the Big Sioux? Or is it a dead river? Will we be seeing a “Love Canal Fire” in SD? Or was that the Chicago River that caught fire?

    My understanding is that per square foot, urban gardening is the biggest polluter, but since the sheer magnitude of ag acres overwhelms excessively manicured and fertilized/herbicided/pesticided suburban lawns, the total pollution is much greater.

    In MN Gov. Dayton is pushing real hard for 50 foot buffer strips of native grasses and other plants between fields and waterways. The vegetation functions as a very efficient filtration system for all the nutrients that are destroying lakes, streams and rivers.

  6. mike from iowa 2015-05-16 16:36

    Ms Deb,you’d be thinking of the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland that caught fire in 1969. There were pictures shown of the river burning,but they were from 1052. There were supposedly no known pics of the 69 fire,according to Wapo.

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