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Rural water project is progressing

Charley Najacht
Published: Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

  RURAL WATER PROJECT – Don Peterson, Oral, points to the northern boundary of the Southern Black Hills Water System project which should be underway by next spring. Initial construction of the first phase of a rural water system in the Southern Black Hills may begin as early as next spring, if everything goes according to plans. This was part of the information presented by Southern Black Hills Water Users Association’s project coordinator Don Peterson and board chairman Bob Peplinski at a Custer Rotary Club meeting Sept. 15. “We plan to bid the project next spring and have construction begin right after that,” Peterson said. “Hopefully, next spring we’ll be putting pipe in the ground,” he said. The group recently received approval for a $3.6 million USDA rural development loan, a $900,000 rural development grant and $300,000 from Gov. Mike Rounds’ DENR omnibus bill. Water source for the first phase will be on the Streeter Ranch about midway between Highway 79 and Highway 385 along the 7-11 Road. From this 110-gallons-per-minute well, the 12-inch pipe will go to Highway 385 to the west and then to Argyle Road west for three miles. Total length of phase one is 9.4 miles and total cost is estimated at $4.025 million. Phase two of the project is 11.9 miles of pipe continuing west on Argyle Road and then north on Highway 89 at a cost of $5.786 million. There are an estimated 200 water users signed up in phase one and another 200 users in phase two, out of 649 existing homes. Eventually, the water project will extend from south of Hot Springs and north to Custer, Hill City and Hermosa. Mt. Rushmore is also interested in the water. “We’re talking to Wyoming officials about supplying water to Custer Highlands area so we don’t have to cross Hell Canyon,” Peterson said. He estimated the 15-year project now has a price tag of about $120 million because of material increases. In 2004 the cost was estimated at $80 million. Peterson said there are an estimated 6,000 water users in the total project, including the communities involved. “Most of the state has rural water districts, but there aren’t any yet in the Black Hills,” Peplinski said. The project will be user-driven because Custer County is a growing county and people are moving into these rural areas. “Would you rather have more people punching holes in the ground or have a rural water system in place?” he asked. Both men said all three of South Dakota’s Congressional officials have been supportive of the project, but it is still taking back seat to at least two others in South Dakota. “We’ll try to fund $5-$7 million at a time until it is authorized by Congress,” Peterson said. Multiple well sites have been proposed for the project, along with many storage reservoirs. Besides the Streeter well site, there are proposed locations at Gobble Pass west of Hot Springs, City of Hot Springs, Cascade, Argyle and Hermosa. “Enough storage will be built into the project to make it work,” Peterson said. People may still sign up for water by paying a “good intention fee” of $150 of a total $1,500 fee. “This is a heck of a deal,” Peplinski said. “For this they get guaranteed water within 50 feet of their dwelling, or if there is no dwelling, then to their property line,” he said. To sign up, people may call Peterson at 424-2066 or Peplinski at 745-7674, or contact any other board members. They are Don Kraus, Custer; John Beard, Buffalo Gap; Mike McMahon, Rapid City; Jay Smith, Hermosa; and Ted Wicks, Hot Springs.

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