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Sanford Underground Lab Gets $13M, Despite Noem’s Hesitance to Continue Investing in Science and Jobs

One little budget note: Governor Kristi Noem did sign Senate Bill 35, which immediately provides $13 million to help expand the Sanford Underground Research Facility under Lead in the Black Hills, despite the fact that she sent her money man to testify against the funding:

In opposition to the bill was Jim Terwilliger, the Bureau of Finance and Management Commissioner. He said there are sustainability questions to be considered.

“The primary reason for my opposition here today comes down to unanswered questions about when, how much, and for how long into the future should the state be expected to put funding into the Sanford Underground Research Facility,” Terwilliger said. “And with this particular ask, we don’t have anything in writing regarding the potential for $100 million dollars in private funding” [C.J. Keene, “Funding Proposal for SURF Advances Past Appropriations Committee,” SDPB Radio, 2023.02.22].

How long into the future should the state put funding into SURF? I’d say for as long as we are interested in (a) discovering facts about the creation and structure of the universe and (b) enjoying hundreds of millions of dollars a year in economic impact from activities that employ highly educated professionals and don’t involve polluting or destroying the Black Hills.


  1. larry kurtz 2023-03-28

    The 2002 Homestake mine closure sealed the exodus of union miners to Nevada and Arizona erasing the Democratic base from the northern Black Hills and much of Rapid City.

    After Janklow’s successor, another former GOP governor dropped the ball by letting much of the mine fill with water Democratic former US Senators Tom Daschle and Tim Johnson brought the need for an underground research facility to Congress and worked tirelessly to bring the project to fruition.

  2. sx123 2023-03-28

    That underground lab is one of the rare/cool/interesting things that’s happening here. i.e. it’s not ag related, and I like ag too, but not everyone can farm.

  3. Nix 2023-03-28

    The lab brings highly educated professionals….
    Beer bellied Trump thumpers who spray paint
    FJB on trees in the Black Hills National Forest?
    I’d say that the lab is a great investment.

  4. John 2023-03-28

    Republicants like noem and number cruncher Terwilliger do not understand and cannot fathom public investment in research. They have no business being in government. Folks like them are kin to the fools who think the postal service ought to turn a profit – rather than provide a service. No one expects the 790 billion dollar DOD to turn a profit, any more than they expect a profit from the local fire department.

  5. leslie 2023-03-28

    At the time (around 9-11) Homestake left we criticized the SD government “bailout” (or bucket-out of the accumulating ground water flooding) by the purchase of a nuisance, the deep century old exhausted hole in the ground a mining company, as usual, had walked away from leaving the public to potentially clean up.

    SURF’s up now, it seems!

  6. Donald Pay 2023-03-28

    Basic scientific research is a good investment. I’m less supportive of “big science.” I don’t like that they moved the SURF research project funding from the National Science Foundation over to the Department of Energy. I suppose it had to do with the need to build big stuff in order to do the research, rather than funding smaller research projects. DOE, of course, runs the country’s nuclear weapons, nuclear power and nuclear waste programs badly, so I don’t have much confidence in them. I don’t like SURF’s pitch that they have to compete with other countries for research space. That’s why they are shaking down the SD Legislature for funding. Science is supposed to be collaborative. If Canada has more and better space and they have room for experiments, use Canada’s space, rather than waste US money.

    Another thing I don’t like is that the SD Science and Technology Authority uses a lot of executive sessions, etc., to hide information about the activities going on there. I, of course, am more concerned with any slippage from basic research into doing research on deep borehole disposal and the like. They were coming pretty close to that kind of stuff a few years ago, but it was hard to figure out what they were up to because they buried information on that stuff deeper than the deepest shafts at the facility they oversee.

  7. Mark Anderson 2023-03-28

    Donald, I loved “Big Science”. Oh Superman was good too. Incidentally, I pick up rocks on my walks, I wonder if the lab workers pick up a few while on the job? Are they unionized? Their smart, I’m sure they must be. However, South Dakota is a right to work for less state isn’t it? What a drag.

  8. All Mammal 2023-03-28

    I wonder about our (Sanford Underground Lab’s) contributions to the antimatter used in the neutron bomb which devastated Yemen, causing the nastiest famine in my lifetime. There is no doubt every scientific discovery is eventually, if not initially, intended for weaponization. Such bs is bound to happen when you put a dude in a room…he comes up with D.U.N.E. Try and tell me it isn’t just your nature and I will think of depleted uranium tearing the fabric of the universe. Not so natural. Nice going. I wish they were working on solving world hunger down there, not finding new ways to cause it.

    One thing Natives were adamant about concerning the Black Hills was to leave them be. There is immense energy stored in its granite. That quartz packs dark energy, which isn’t good or bad, but it belongs right there. Was it planned from the start to blast this particular granite to smithereens and bore deep into the rock to extract the gold and, ultimately, start toying with that mysterious energy? Only Gotthard knows.

    Since I’m already out there, would there be a connection with the blip of extreme human aggression here at the end of the neutrino smashing track that comes from Fermilab? Or is it coincidence Rapid City/The Black Hills and Chicago, Illinois are two of the most violent places on the good earth? I mean, even compared to war zones. It isn’t that far-fetched when we know all that energy must go somewhere. Natives were smart enough to know to leave it be.

  9. larry kurtz 2023-03-28

    Heather Wilson still has her fingers in the SURF cookie jar because South Dakota’s Republican congressional delegation wants her there because she has seen the plasma weapon being developed. Mrs. Noem’s pittance to our march toward a world with kinder, gentler battlefield readiness is likely welcome.

  10. Bob Newland 2023-03-28

    Tracking the money is not something I am good at. I like it when someone else points out impossible accounting records that cast certain shadows on the producers thereof. I also like it when the governor puts herself on record through the lips of Mr. Terwilliger, as being firmly on both sides of this issue, depending on which side shines more brightly on my legacy

  11. DaveFN 2023-03-28

    Highly educated professionals? Of little if any practical good, other than sucking money from taxpayers.

    It’s an enterprise piggybacking on neutrinos and Einstein’s spacetime continuum (and Einstein didn’t require anything like the millions of dollars of those who follow him to develop his theorems). In any case, the SD commitment to prime the federal dollar pump into SD is taxpayer money. A bunch hoopla to secure the dollars with a paucity of scientific payoff. Riding the coattails of real science has never been so profitable for such a privileged few physicists. For what the latter promise, science fiction writers are much more inspring, if inspiration is the hook, which it seems to be by those so hoodwinked by this balleyhoo.

    But SD can’t say no and neither can Noem, despite her pathetic caveats.

  12. larry kurtz 2023-03-29

    The Homestake Mine represents 8000 feet closer to the geothermal potential capable of powering much of the region. The miners who actually worked in there knew how hot it got the deeper they drilled. New Mexico’s Sandia Labs, Los Alamos National Laboratory, South Dakota School of Mines and others are collaborating on exploring that potentially limitless resource.

  13. larry kurtz 2023-03-29

    Why hasn’t South Dakota’s nutbag legislature gerrymandered West River districts so that the left-leaning scientists and scholars repopulating the area don’t make ripples likely to test the anchored Earth haters?

  14. Donald Pay 2023-03-29

    larry, Anything that connects Sandia and Los Alamos with the School of Mines scares the sh*t out of me. Geothermal is something that the nuclear borehole disposal folks like to hide behind.

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