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Legislature Nixes Duhamel’s River-Hills Pipeline Bill, Because Noem DANR Can’t Handle Water Work

Sometimes the Legislature won’t even spend other people’s money. Senate Bill 156, Senator Helene Duhamel’s (R-32/Rapid City) proposal to spend $100 million in ARPA Biden bucks on a pipeline to carry Missouri River water out to the Black Hills and one step closer to desperately thirsty Colorado River buyers, got whittled down to $50 million and then to nothing:

The bill eventually passed both legislative chambers, but amendments put the House and Senate versions of the bill in conflict. Legislative leaders appointed a committee – which included Duhamel – to work out the differences.

The committee voted 6-0 to change the allocation to $50 million. The Senate voted 30-3 on Thursday to accept that amendment.

“I had every indication that was acceptable to the House,” Duhamel said. “Unfortunately, when it hit the floor, it fell two votes short of the two-thirds required.”

A two-thirds majority is required for bills that appropriate money. In the House, that means 47 members. The vote on Thursday afternoon was 45-25 [Seth Tupper, “$50 Million Water Legislation Falls Two Votes Short on Final Day,” South Dakota Searchlight, 2023.03.10].

Usually South Dakota is really eager to spend federal money. But evidently the Noem Administration’s merger of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has left the new Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources too understaffed to handle big federal investments in water:

Duhamel’s bill was opposed by the state Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Department representatives said much of the $600 million in federal money allocated to water and wastewater projects last year is unspent, because of the time-consuming nature of designing big projects and getting bids from contractors. Department representatives said they currently lack the staff, time and specific project plans they’d need to accommodate another big chunk of federal money.

…In the conference committee and on the House floor Thursday, opponents said the money should not be appropriated until state water officials are ready [Tupper, 2023.03.10].

Governor Noem can import all sorts of young guns to work on her image management, but she can’t find fresh young water policy and infrastructure experts who could help invest federal infrastructure dollars wisely and keep the Black Hills from going dry? I get the impression someone in Pierre isn’t working hard enough… and it’s not Senator Duhamel.


  1. Donald Pay 2023-03-13 09:07

    Well, DANR’s yowling about not having enough staff is probably true. Biden has been handing money out faster than even the South Dakota socialists can spend it.

    South Dakota has never been good at thinking what needs to be studied and how to plan ahead. The Duhamel Socialist Pipeline is more of a concept for a possible solution to a potential future problem that might be solved with far less expense by other means. I mean, really, she is five steps ahead of where she needs to be. Only a truly pampered elitist would come in with a hand out for that amount of money and zero pre-planning. Duhamel would be better off to secure a few million to do a real study of alternatives for Black Hills water needs, rather than insisting on that amount of money.

  2. Richard Schriever 2023-03-13 09:50

    Despite having one of the better engineering schools in the country in SD, the state itself is woefully behind the curve when it comes to having engineering talent on the payroll. This is particularly true when it comes to implementing any sort of new, innovative or “green” ways of doing things. I’m speaking from on-the-ground, large-scale project work experience in several states.

  3. Jake 2023-03-13 10:13

    Schriever-I think that attitude in our state is very typical of the “cheap-skate” mind-set of getting as much as possible with as little input of your own as you can. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be one of 3 states that charge sales taxes on food and feminine products but not on Viagra and
    fence staples. Also, fight off EVERY effort of having a state income tax imposed because THEN the more wealthy taxpayers will have to pay into the state treasury (common good) more $$, ruining their image of being “Job Creators” to the rest of us as they sneak their $$$ into the protected custody of the dark money ‘state protected’ Trust system or in foreign banks.

  4. Joe 2023-03-13 11:01

    Look at the salaries for engineers in state (of SD) agencies; compare them to those offered by peer agencies in neighboring states and in the private sector. And then the “benefit” of getting to live in Pierre … which has some very specific charms but is also small and isolated, and not really an inexpensive place to live. It’s no wonder there’s not enough manpower for the work that needs to be done.

  5. grudznick 2023-03-13 12:10

    Ms. Duhammel just sees the big Mr. Uncle Joe President Biden bucks and wants a swig. Mr. Pay is righter than right and Mr. H is just gratuitously poking at the DANR fellows because of his NDS. grudznick bets there is a back story Mr. H doesn’t know.

  6. Retired 2023-03-13 12:59

    Western states need to plug the holes in their bucket before they add more water. Water conservation.

  7. CK 2023-03-13 13:58

    Those talented young engineers don’t want to stay here, Richard. My nephew graduates next December. He’s already thinking about where he wants to land…He’s looking hard at Minnesota, Colorado, and Illinois.

  8. O 2023-03-13 14:13

    Don’t engineers see that we have low taxes and excellent hunting and fishing? I thought that was all it took to make SD the #1 state to work in.

  9. Arlo Blundt 2023-03-13 17:06

    Graduates from the School of Mines are in demand and look out of state for employment. The jobs, and the salaries, aren’t in South Dakota. Most of the civil engineers working in South Dakota are graduates of State College, Brookings. They too look first out of state. A young engineer has to be a hunting and fishing fanatic to even look at Pierre for a position. Working with the County Commissioners in our rural counties on bridge replacement projects is a miserable way to make a living.

  10. leslie 2023-03-13 17:28

    Pay: “Duhamel would be better off to secure a few million to do a real study of alternatives”

    Helene: likely says something like “Oh, hadn’t thought of that” (:

  11. grudznick 2023-03-13 17:40

    It seems grudznick and most of the libbies on this blogging site are in lock-step with Ms. Duhamel’s misplaced money-grubbing. That tells you it’s a bad law bill.

  12. leslie 2023-03-13 17:49

    much like you grdz helene just tries to strike 1st without thinking

  13. All Mammal 2023-03-13 18:18

    Retired- Word to my mommy. I agree so much with the practice of conservation. Like a similar town decided to do in California when they were counting down days until Mt. Shasta’s precious headwater was fixing to dry up. They avoided major projects that would have put too much strain on the good earth and would have destroyed sacred places.

    Conserve and stop wasting our sweet trickle on two-garment loads of laundry, drippy faucets, and municipal green space sprinklers that squirt the street in the rain. We can all at least water first with what we harvest. The state may want to create a valuable Conserve Water public service campaign that can piggyback with turning up the alarm on Zebra Mussels because too many folks know nothing about Pactola’s new little friends still. That could be done in-state, with in-state talent and maybe a couple of the governor’s social media posting professionals she has on staff to post about real things we need to come together for in order to actually act like capable grownups, not like incapable in-grown ups. Ewe

  14. grudznick 2023-03-13 18:30

    Ms. leslie, I concur with your thoughts.
    I also agree Ms. Duhamel is very pretty, and very young, and probably farther ahead than her though processes have led her.

  15. larry kurtz 2023-03-13 19:33

    Recall that the South Dakota Republican Party ceded regulatory authority to the US Environmental Protection Agency for uranium mining after the legislature realized there is no competent oversight from state agencies. Mrs. Noem became the “don’t say environment” Earth hater when she struck that word from big gubmint.

  16. larry kurtz 2023-03-13 19:40

    Little wonder South Dakota is 51st in women who vote.

  17. grudznick 2023-03-13 19:55

    You keep forgetting Guam, Lar. 52nd.

  18. Mark Anderson 2023-03-13 22:42

    Larry, don’t South Dakota women have to ask their husband’s permission to vote or do they just sign their name to the ballot for him to send in?

  19. roger 2023-03-14 09:52

    My opinion is the pipeline was a pre-emptive move to counter the runoff pollution that will come from all of the proposed gold mining activities in the Rapid City drinking watershed…

  20. Joe 2023-03-14 11:26

    Grudz: Helene Duhamel is the same age as me (we were neighbors growing up in Rapid). And I’m not young. Granted, she is prettier.

  21. All Mammal 2023-03-14 12:36

    roger- That is what I suspect as well. I am also wondering if that is the same reason nothing is being done about Pactola’s zebra mussels; to keep people out of the area while it is being polluted and disfigured like an abused crackhead. Witnesses make what they are going to do too messy. I love that place down to my bones and will be damned if I look on while she is treated and used with no respect. Mni Wiconi. Not one peep about Rapid City’s doomed drinking water all session in the leg. Just gimme gimme gimme.

  22. All Mammal 2023-03-14 14:17

    If they just put a skosh of the amount they are wanting to divert into a water pipeline into protecting and rehabilitating the water we do have in Western SD, and put the rest into education, we would be cooler than polar bear toe nails. Looks like we are going to have to fight them like cats and badgers in a wet wool sock the whole way. Nobody walks away from an encounter like that unscathed. I wonder if the leg has ever heard of Watts. Or Cleveland, OH. Or Eugene, OR. Or Tuscaloosa, Alabama!

  23. leslie 2023-03-21 14:22

    we have a LONG way to go grdz

    thousands of experts have/are looking at Missouri river flows. the Colorado River dilemma should teach us to look at all scenarios Mother Nature and her sister, Global Warming are aiming at us!

  24. John 2023-03-28 12:16

    All Mammal is spot on! What is needed are thousands of little engineering solutions, not mammoth, corrupt big engineering wastes of taxpayer funds.

    Tucson receives more rainfall each year than it uses in municipal water. Through rainwater collection and diversion Tucson would be swimming in water. This, despite that Tucson annually receives 11 inches of rain.
    Most Tucson home use, aka waste 30 – 50% of their water outdoors (lawns, pools, etc.). One can bet that is similar, or worse for Rapid City and the Black Hills communities. The Black Hills does not need Duhammel’s and Chapman’s Western Dakota Regional Water System. Western Dakota and the Black Hills have all the water they need if they’d conserve what they have, and use rainwater harvesting.
    “Perhaps no city has encouraged the practice more than Tucson, which launched first-of-its-kind rainwater harvesting installation mandates in 2008 and rebate programs in 2012 as part of its goal to become carbon neutral by 2030. The city is one of the country’s most vulnerable to climate change. By 2050, it’s estimated that one-third of its days will reach 105 degrees. It relies heavily on dwindling Colorado River water, pumped through the 336-mile long Central Arizona Project canal.
    “I don’t think we should be using the Colorado River as our checking account,” Lancaster said.””
    paywall, gift article:
    and see,

    Rather than work any water issue locally, Spearfish foolishly contributed to the folly of big engineering non-solutions to perpetuate local water waste, misuse, and lack of conservation.

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