While Iowa Republicans want to build a pipeline to haul CO2 out of Aberdeen, the Hub City would like to build a pipeline to haul H2O in from the Missouri River. Back in May, the Aberdeen City Council hired Bismarck engineers Bartlett & West to study the feasibility of building a 100-mile water pipeline and accompanying infrastructure (pump stations, reservoirs…) to slake Aberdeen’s thirst. Last month, Bartlett & West reported that the project would cost $271 million to $334 million. Not only might President Joe Biden’s new infrastructure investments help pay for that big project (the Biden bill has $355 million over five years for South Dakota water projects), but President Biden‘s (and the market’s) cancellation of Keystone XL might make the Big Mo–Aberdeen water project a little cheaper:
While the report recommends using cement mortar-lined steel pipe, Doug Mund from Bartlett & West said there is currently a surplus of welded steel pipe available because of recently canceled oil pipeline projects.
“A few months ago, there were 1,000 miles of pipe available,” he said. “We can see a significant pipe savings between surplus and regular price.”
Using that surplus pipe would put the estimated cost around $291 million [Elisa Sand, “Piping Water from the Missouri River to Aberdeen Is at Least $271M Venture, Report Shows,” Aberdeen American News, 2021.10.22].
Water straight from a steel pipe might get a little rusty; I’ll still take some cement mortar lining with my water, thanks. And watch out for that Keystone XL pipe—the steel TransCanada bought seems to corrode really quickly.
Of course, Aberdeen wouldn’t be looking at any hundreds of millions in new water infrastructure if it had joined the WEB Water system back when it started in the 1980s. WEB Water serves counties surrounding Aberdeen, and its main office is in Aberdeen, but attorney and natural resources expert David Ganje writes that Aberdeen denied itself that clean-water opportunity through sheer pettiness:
Some years ago a political conflict burst forth around a proposed new East River irrigation project known as the Oahe Irrigation Project. This history is documented in a book by South Dakota author Peter Carrels titled Uphill Against Water.
Two camps developed over the irrigation project. Those who wanted the Oahe Irrigation Project and those who did not. The opponents, mostly the grassroots ag community, won the battle. Oahe was discontinued, and a substitute water project was advanced. The substitute project was the WEB water pipeline. WEB is now one of the largest water pipeline systems in the U.S. and is ironically headquartered in Aberdeen.
Aberdeen’s support for the Oahe Project and the fight elected city officials carried against the opponents of the project influenced the city’s decision on the question of joining WEB. The absence of a vision for the water needs of Aberdeen and good old-fashioned ignorance effectuated the considered decision. Aberdeen rejected the city’s participation in the WEB water supply system in 1982. One official said he would not accept “a bag of peanuts (WEB) in exchange for (Oahe)” [David Ganje, “Peanuts as Water or Water as Peanuts,” Rapid City Journal, 2021.11.06].
There’s no time-machining back to redirect that WEB Water under Aberdeen’s bridge. But the prospect of spending $300 million (mostly of other people’s money, courtesy of the big federal socialism that makes South Dakota possible) to expand its own water supply when it could have shared the cost of helping WEB Water make a similar expansion to its regional system reminds us of the cost of letting hard feelings get in the way of practical problem-solving.