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Attorney argues water contamination needs to be taken into account during Keystone XL hearing

Keystone XL SD map.jpg
A map of TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL pipeline route, shown in green, through South Dakota. Image courtesy of TransCanada.
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PIERRE, S.D. — Water Management Board members will likely not take into consideration the potential contamination TC Energy’s water usage from the Cheyenne River may have on those downstream.

Jung-Hoe Hopgood, a senior engineer with EXP Global Inc. out of Florida, was accepted by the board as an expert witness during Tuesday’s meeting in Pierre.

During his testimony, Hopgood said he completed an analysis of water flows on the waterways in which TC Energy is seeking withdrawals by using public data tools, such as data from the U.S. Geological Survey stream gauges along the waterways, information on water permits approved along the waterway downstream of the potential withdrawal sites, and other public datasets.

Hopgood testified on the Cheyenne River water usage permit application, which is one of three water permit applications up for approval during a series of meetings this week in Pierre.

TC Energy, formerly known as TransCanada, is seeking a water usage permit that would allow the company to withdraw 238.21 acre feet of water annually from the Cheyenne River in Meade and Pennington counties. The water would be used for dust control along the project right-of-way, horizontal directional drilling, pump station construction and hydrostatic testing of pipeline. Diversion points are located about 36 miles south of Faith, according to the permit documents.

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Bruce Ellison, an attorney for Dakota Rural Action, questioned Hopgood’s qualifications to serve as an expert, arguing that the engineer had little experience with South Dakota’s waterways which would be necessary to be deemed an expert.

Hopgood earned an undergraduate degree in environmental engineering from Michigan Technological University before earning a masters degree in business administration from Ohio State University.

Hopgood also has a professional engineering license, which he earned while working as a hydrologist in Michigan.

While questioning Hopgood during the afternoon portion of the hearing, Ellison asked whether potential contamination downstream of the river could happen during the construction of the pipeline as a result of the water usage and subsequent discharge.

Ellison's questioning stopped by Board Chairman Rodney Freeman, who said that the water quality was not a factor the board would deliberate.

By ignoring the impacts of downstream users by contamination, Ellison argued that the board would be ignoring impacts on wildlife and the ecosystem downstream, in both short and long term.

“Dakota Rural Action raises the issue and encourage the board to include the impact that this water has on everything,” Ellison said.

That’s a detriment to downstream users, if that board rejects that then it is really limiting.

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"Your responsibility is to protect our water, this doesn’t do that,” he added.

The second permit up for approval during the remainder of the Tuesday, Oct. 29 hearing and the Wednesday, Oct. 30 hearing would allow TC Energy to withdraw 223.68 acre feet of water annually from White River in Lyman and Tripp counties at a location about 14 miles south and 6 miles west of Presho.

The third permit would allow TC Energy to withdraw 50.44 acre feet annually from Bad River in Haakon County about 2.5 miles east of Midland.

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