Recent Op-Eds

South Dakotans understand the importance of our state's water system. Periodic droughts are a fact of life in South Dakota, so maintaining an efficient system to distribute water across large, rural areas is a challenge that public officials on the federal, state, and local level must work together to meet.

During the last few weeks, South Dakota's water infrastructure has been a topic of much discussion, both in Washington and throughout the state.

Last week, I met with representatives from the South Dakota Rural Water Association in Washington. The group is made up of rural water providers from all corners of the state, and all of them recognize the importance of securing clean water supplies for our farms, ranches, and towns. The future of our agriculture economy is tied to water, as is the growth of communities in South Dakota, both large and small.

In the future, South Dakota will benefit from the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System, which will provide safe, reliable drinking water to over 300,000 individuals in South Dakota as well as portions of Iowa and Minnesota. The Lewis and Clark System is an example of the ability of local leaders to work with state and federal authorities to expand infrastructure and economic development opportunities.

I will continue to work with Senator Johnson and Congresswoman Herseth Sandlin, as well as members of Congress from other states, to ensure that the Lewis and Clark project has the necessary funding to stay on track. Just two weeks ago I met with Sioux Falls Mayor Dave Munson to discuss the project, and to outline efforts in Congress to see that next year's funding level is sufficient to keep construction moving.

What Lewis and Clark is to eastern South Dakota, the Mni Wiconi Rural Water System is to western South Dakota. When completed, Mni Wiconi will serve over 50,000 South Dakotans, including the Oglala Sioux Tribe, the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Even though the project is not yet fully complete, it already provides thousands of South Dakotans with clean water.

While droughts are a danger in the state, South Dakotans are also well-acquainted with the threat of flooding. Officials in Sioux Falls are working to modernize the city's flood control system, which no longer provides the necessary level of flood protection. Additionally, because of proposed modifications by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to the City's 100 year old floodplain, roughly 1,600 homes and businesses could be required to buy federal flood insurance. Thankfully, the city is actively working with various federal agencies and the delegation to make needed improvements to the flood protection system.

South Dakotans seem to constantly live in times of either too much or too little water. Local officials are well aware of how important both water distribution and flood control systems are, and I look forward to working with them in the future to make sure that South Dakota's infrastructure needs are met.