The South Dakota Department of Public Safety has recommended the Yankton Sioux Tribe’s request to use the South Dakota National Guard for flood response be declined because other options are immediately available to the tribe, according to a press release.
The recommendation comes after Yankton Sioux Tribe Chairman Robert Flying Hawk sent a letter dated Sept. 20 to Gov. Kristi Noem requesting assistance for the White Swan community in Lake Andes, which, along with much of central and south central South Dakota, has suffered serious flooding due to the heavy rainfall and storms this spring and summer. Flying Hawk requested any and all use of the National Guard.
In a letter sent Monday to Flying Hawk, DPS Cabinet Secretary Craig Price said that staff with the DPS Office of Emergency Management had met with tribal and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials to evaluate the idea of constructing a berm to protect the White Lake community. Price said that reports from the visit indicate the Corps of Engineers provided instruction and technical advice on constructing the berm.
He also said the tribe indicated it already had BIA funding, materials such as dirt to build a berm, tribal equipment the move the dirt and build the berm, tribal personnel, local contractors to assist and access to additional technical assistance from state government agencies and the Corps of Engineers.
“While it is our assumption you want the National Guard to construct the berm, it is our recommendation that, in this situation, the National Guard is not a last resort, because the tribe still has other resources available that can quickly be implemented,” Price wrote in the letter.
Price wrote that the DPS has already provided pumps to lower water levels, raised roads to re-establish access to Lake Andes for tribal members and worked with FEMA and tribal housing officials to identify possible housing solutions.
Price said the DPS would continue to work with the tribe as it does other South Dakota communities to address flooding issues, and that the state has tried to stay in contact with the tribe and that state assistance is still available to them.
“The state was worked together with many communities to deal with their flooding issues and I know we can continue to do the same thing here,” Price wrote in the letter.