Bob Mercer offers a great example of how Governor Kristi Noem’s plan to merge the Department of Environment and Natural Resources with the Department of Agriculture won’t work. The DENR, through its Water Management Board, is working up new fees on large industrial and construction sites for stormwater discharge permits:
The proposed stormwater fees range from $100 to $800 per year per site, depending on the type of business, with a $2,500 maximum, and would begin accruing January 1, 2022.
They would generate an estimated $190,000 more for the department, based on approximately 850 industrial sites that currently have stormwater discharge permits [Bob Mercer, “Stormwater Fees Set for S.D. Industrial Sites,” KELO-TV, 2020.12.02].
The Legislature authorized such stormwater permit fees in 2018 with Senate Bill 25. That bill struck an exception from such fees for feedlot activities, but it also struck the exception for stormwater discharge systems and construction dewatering activities, which include activities entirely unrelated to agriculture.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources works on important public issues that require expertise far outside the agricultural development sphere that is our current Department of Agriculture’s nearly exclusive focus. Trying to fit the DENR’s diverse environmental protection activities into a narrow office committed to developing one sector of our economy will produce inefficiency and bad government.