PIERRE — The state Board of Minerals and Environment decided Thursday to hold a hearing to determine whether an oil well-hole left unplugged near Wasta poses an environmental danger to drinking-water wells in the area. A lawyer for the company behind the Quartz Northern Points well recently notified the board that the company is insolvent, lacks the money to plug the hole and is willing to surrender the $130,000 bond it posted for the project.
PIERRE — South Dakota doesn't prohibit candidates for state elected offices from spending campaign money for personal purposes and they can keep the money remaining after they leave office. Secretary of State Shantel Krebs wants a campaign-finance review panel to consider changing state laws so those practices would become banned. Federal election regulations for example don't allow spending campaign funds for the candidate's personal use or for the use of the candidate's relatives.
PIERRE — Without further controversy, the state Public Utilities Commission accepted the request by the Prevailing Winds project to withdraw its application to build up to 100 wind turbines in the area north of Avon on Tuesday. "I believe everything is right there in the motion," Lee Magnuson, a Sioux Falls lawyer representing the company, told the commissioners by telephone. Amanda Reiss, a lawyer for the commission, said the staff didn't object. The voluntary withdrawal allows Prevailing Winds to apply at another time.
PIERRE — One of the arguments used back on March 29 to sustain the governor's veto of the buffer strips tax break for farmers and ranchers during the 2016 legislative session was its unknown cost. Now five-plus months later, Gov. Dennis Daugaard is throwing the full weight of his administration — four different departments and one of his top aides—behind his own buffer strips plan. And, surprisingly, the estimated cost still remains unknown.
PIERRE — South Dakota's new school-funding system doesn't provide enough money to small-enrollment school systems, state legislators elected from rural areas said Monday. They said schools aren't receiving enough funding to cover one teacher per grade. The comments came from two Democrats and two Republicans during a presentation on the new formula by Tami Darnall, finance director for the state Department of Education. Earlier this year, the Legislature approved Gov. Dennis Daugaard's request to raise the state sales tax to 4.5 percent from 4 percent.
PIERRE — The buffer strips proposal coming from Gov. Dennis Daugaard began with Sen. Jim Peterson of Revillo in the 2016 legislative session. The Republican governor vetoed the bill the Democratic lawmaker had passed. Now with a variety of technical and legal revisions the governor too wants to reward helping our environment. It offers a property tax reduction for landowners who plant strips of grass 50 to 120 feet wide between private farm ground and public water bodies. The grass strip reduces soil erosion and slows run-off that contains agricultural pollution.
PIERRE — A state board approved a smaller budget Friday for Deadwood historic preservation in 2017. The budget is funded by an estimated $6.95 million from Deadwood gambling tax revenues and taking about $1.975 million from reserves for capital improvement projects. The amounts spent from reserves last year and being spent this year are significantly larger than the reserves used in the 2017 plan, according to the data presented by Kevin Kuchenbecker, the city's historic preservation officer, to the State Historical Society board of trustees.
ABERDEEN — The shoreline restoration project at Cottonwood Lake near Redfield will receive a second grant of $50,000 and replacement of an impoundment structure at Sand Lake in northern Brown County will get $50,000 of assistance, the board of directors for the James River Water Development District decided Thursday. The board also gave the green light for its staff to assist on projects to reduce agricultural runoff in the Vermillion Basin Water Development District covering Clay and Turner counties.
PIERRE — Trustee elections are going to change for the South Dakota Retirement System. The SDRS board of trustees agreed Wednesday to let a contractor run the elections starting in 2017 and to permit electronic ballots. "What is before us next year is the largest election we've ever had," SDRS executive director Rob Wylie told the board. "It has just become too large to handle internally," he added. Traditionally the SDRS staff has conducted the elections. They mail ballots to thousands of SDRS members and count the ballots that members send back.
PIERRE — The South Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame adds five new members this weekend including Bernie Christenson, of Pierre. Christenson, now a self-described "young 78," moved to Pierre in 1973 and started flying part-time for Cecil Ice. In the 43 years since, Christensen became a co-owner of the air carrier, was the FAA licensing examiner for 1,700 pilots and flew governors for decades. The others selected for the hall this year include: The late Grove Rathbun, of Rapid City, a past president of the South Dakota Pilots Association;