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Aberdeen Offers WEB Water 12 Million Gallons a Day from Proposed Big Mo Pipeline, Competes for Federal Coronavirus Relief Dollars to Foot Bill

Recognizing the error of city leaders in the 1980s who scorned cooperation with the WEB Water system, Aberdeen leaders are offering to share their big Missouri River water pipeline project with WEB.

According to documents the city of Aberdeen submitted to the Legislature’s Covid Relief Liaison Committee, Aberdeen is sweetening its appeal for the state to use federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars to fund this water project by allowing WEB Water to take 12 million gallons per day from the pipeline. That’s in addition to the 16 million gallons a day Aberdeen would pull from the Missouri River for its own industrial and residential use. The city’s proposal says WEB hasn’t agreed to join the project.

To get even more bang for the buck, Aberdeen is promoting an option that would include another 16 million gallons a day to supply water to the surrounding area, a total of 44 million gallons a day coming out of the river, with 12 million going to WEB Water’s treatment plant near Mobridge and the other 32 million rushing across the prairie. That option would require a 4-million-gallon main reservoir near Selby and an 8-million-gallon reservoir next to Aberdeen’s water treatment plant northeast of town to provide 9 hours of backup supply. Aberdeen says the biggest option is best, because it can double the water transported to Aberdeen, from 16 MGD to 32 MGD, by spending just 23% more on building the project ($271M for the base Aberdeen+WEB project, $334M to shoot the moon and provide another 16 MGD to Aberdeen’s neighbors).

Operating costs for the larger option would be 87% higher: adding that 16MGD for neighbors adds over $1M in operating costs, mostly for more power used at the main pump station to lift twice as much water over the great Selby-Java ridge. But at a total yearly cost of $2.146 million including contingencies), the system would move 11.68 billion gallons of water a year. That divides down to $184 per million gallons, or less than two hundredths of a penny for each gallon. The smaller option, with an annual operating cost of $1.114 million, would move 5.84 billion gallons a year to Aberdeen at a cost of $196 per million gallons.

Aberdeen says building this Big Mo pipeline in the next eight to ten years will help keep costs low. The proposal prepared by the city’s consultants, Bartlett & West from Bismarck, says federal relief legislation could cover up to 50% of the cost. Aberdeen envisions the feds and the state paying for about 70% of the project; the remaining 30% would be covered by long-term financing paid off by the end users.

But there are already a lot of projects at the trough: The Department of Agriculture (and Natural Resources) told the Covid Relief Liaison Committee that the current state water plan has nearly 250 ARPA-eligible projects requesting over $3.2 billion in funding. DANR proposes pending $600 million in ARPA funds on local water and wastewater projects, plus another $60 million from ARPA on state-owned water and sewer infrastructure (two thirds of which would support upgrading Board of Regents and Game Fish & parks waterworks). And committee chairman and Senate kingpin Lee Schoenbeck (R-5/Kampeska) has proposed draft legislation to spend $40 million from ARPA on projects in the Big Sioux watershed.

Aberdeen’s signal that it is willing to finally cooperate with WEB Water could hep build a coalition to support a Missouri River water pipeline that would serve tens of thousands of people and several big factories in northeastern South Dakota. But it will take a really big coalition to be heard above all the other voices eagerly crying for federal funds (psst—socialism!) to slake their thirst.


  1. Mark Anderson 2021-11-19

    Come on Cory, Yaberdeen has always been full of socialists. I lived there and got along with everyone. Drank with the editor of the paper. My roommate always let me drink at the Elks club where he was the bartender. It’s amazing how many times I won the roll for a drink. Well anyway this editor would come in. Talk politics with Don and myself and knock down five to six drinks in an hour then leave. He didn’t drink during Lent. He always used to give me a bad time because I was just collecting unemployment and painting, I was 2D then. It was such a hard life, paint, drink, sleep, repeat, talk politics at the Elks. This was in the late 70s so maybe all us socialist’s left and now only true Americans are left. They will hold their noses and take the money. Just won’t talk about it. Somebody will take it if we don’t, right?

  2. larry kurtz 2021-11-19

    With all the snow and rain East River gets pls spring water flowing west off the Coteau it seems less than conservative to bilk taxpayers for a pipeline that slashes through the Oceti Sakowin, init?

  3. ArloBlundt 2021-11-19

    Well…Aberdeen needs reliable water…in fact the whole area would benefit from more reliable, less saline water. WEB has proved the value of Missouri River water.

  4. larry kurtz 2021-11-20

    According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the 2021 runoff forecast for the upper Basin is 15.0 MAF, which is more than 10 MAF below normal. Widespread drought conditions have impacted streamflow and reservoir inflows in certain areas this summer and fall. Even with recent above normal precipitation, it may not lead to increased runoff due to drier-than-normal soils in areas. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers releases from Gavins Point Dam will be reduced to winter rates starting on November 22.

  5. Donald Pay 2021-11-20

    larry kurtz points up something that needs to be weighed carefully. Climate is changing, and runoff is decreasing. The reservoirs are filling with silt. And various tribes do have rights to most, if not all of the water. There is an end to how much can be withdrawn.

    I like the idea of people working together, and this might be a time when we finally recognize the tribes’ rights to the water, and I mean all of it. Just making a deal between Aberdeen and WEB is one thing, but including tribes might begin to address the injustices done to them during construction of the dams, and taking their water.

  6. larry kurtz 2021-11-20

    Absolutely, Mr. Pay. Remember the feud over surplus water in the river system after the 2011 runoff season? Recall Reich Mike Rounds toyed with buying downstream potential and today barge traffic has been disrupted by Hurricane Ida.

    Anyone who believes the main stem dams will survive this century is delusional.

  7. grudznick 2021-11-20

    My good friend Lar is righter than right. These dams will soon become shallow bogs filled with cattails, and birds and insects will thrive there. But if Aberdeen drinks 12 million gallons a day from the river it will be a flat sand dune in the lakes of Francis Case and Lewis and Clark. There are probably not 12 million gallons a day in the entire river. That seems a lot of gallons. Can you see 12 million of these stacked up?

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