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Sioux Falls mayor proposes $260M for sewer system upgrades

SIOUX FALLS (AP) — Sioux Falls officials are preparing to make the largest infrastructure investment in the city's history to meet the demand being put on the sewer system from population growth.

Mayor Paul TenHaken wants to dedicate more than $260 million to water reclamation infrastructure over five years, the Argus Leader reported. The move could increase sewer rates for Sioux Falls residents.

"We need to build for future capacity and commercial and residential growth in our city," TenHaken said. "Economic development and population growth cannot happen in our city without this investment. It's that critical."

The mayor's proposed rehabilitation and expansion program would update the city's nearly 40-year-old water treatment facility and repair aging sewer pipes. It would also increase capacity at a sanitary sewer pump station near the Big Sioux River.

The city's Public Works Department has expressed concern that the existing facility could max out soon due to population surges.

City Hall funded a study in 2015 to compare the sewer treatment system's health and capacity with population growth. The study projected a 69 percent increase in people living in the area that the sewer plant serves by 2036. The estimate would push the amount of wastewater used to 29 million gallons. The plant can currently treat about 21 million gallons, and the expansion proposal would add capacity to treat more than 30 million gallons.

"The cost is a heavy lift, but it's very necessary," TenHaken said.

The city plans to use low-interest loans from the state to pay for the improvements, according to Public Works Department Director Mark Cotter. The loans would be paid down with revenue from sewer customers, he said.

TenHaken and the Public Works Department plan to ask City Council later this year to dedicate about $163 million in next year's budget to start making the sewer system upgrades.