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$500M Mni Wconi water project nearing completion

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news Mitchell, 57301

Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

PINE RIDGE (AP) -- A $500 million project to pipe drinking water from the Missouri River to 50,000 rural South Dakotans is nearing completion.

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The Oglala Sioux tribe is requesting bids this month for a distribution system between Hisel and Allen on the Pine Ridge Reservation, the Rapid City Journal reported. The cost of the 130,000 feet of piping, 136,000 gallons of water storage and other water infrastructure work is estimated at up to $7 million.

Construction of the federally funded Mni Wiconi project was started in 1988 to bring drinking water to three American Indian reservations and 10 counties in rural South Dakota. The project is now more than 95 percent complete but work remains on the reservation.

The system will be life-changing for residents of Hisel and Allen because the groundwater there has unsafe levels of naturally occurring arsenic, said Frank Means, director of the Oglala Sioux Rural Water Supply System.

"The health benefits of this project are tremendous," he said.

After the Hisel-to-Allen system is complete, the tribe will seek bids to construct a system between Allen and Batesland, and then for upgrades around Pine Ridge village. Means expects the reservation's portion of the project to be done by late next year.

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