South Dakota Editorial Roundup

Excerpts from recent South Dakota editorials
The Associated Press

Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, Oct. 2, 2013

Powertech hearings informative

Last week’s state Board of Minerals and Environment hearings into Powertech Uranium’s proposed mine near Edgemont revealed both the expected and unexpected.

As expected:

— The weeklong hearings at the Best Western Ramkota in Rapid City were heavily attended by proponents and opponents of the project. Bringing the hearings to Rapid City from Pierre allowed many West River residents who would be most affected by the mining project to attend the hearings in person.

— The company’s in situ process to extract uranium ore was the object of intense scrutiny by opponents, who argued that it would lead to surface and groundwater pollution. The company argued that the process is safe.

— Opponents said the Legislature’s removal of state regulation of the proposed mine in deference to federal agency expertise would lead to less scrutiny of the project.

— The mine would be located about 15 miles northwest of Edgemont. The in situ process is expected to recover 1 million pounds of uranium each year for eight years, and which would be processed onsite.

Among the unexpected:

— Powertech would like to pump wastewater back into the aquifers, effectively validating opponents’ concerns about the potential of compromising aquifer water quality.

— The company plans to also mine vanadium, which is used in steel alloys to manufacture parts for automobiles, aircraft and cutting tools.

— The state law that removes state Department of Natural Resources and Environment regulation also removes DENR jurisdiction of the mining site, a development that opponents said would prevent the state from containing possible contamination at the mine.

— The ore processing plant at the Dewey site would also process uranium from mines in Wyoming.

— The hearings will be continued in November, after which a decision on Powertech’s large project application will be made.

Holding the hearings in Rapid City was a good decision by the Board of Minerals. It allowed more people who live in the area where the proposed mine would be located to attend the hearing.

The hearing’s format, where “interveners” were allowed to question Powertech representatives, brought out information that the company might not have wanted to become public — such as plans to pump wastewater into the aquifers and to mine vanadium in addition to uranium.

Full disclosure by Powertech of its plans for its proposed uranium mine is important to convince skeptics that the project will not harm the environment or degrade the quality of life of residents of the Southern Hills. We welcome the board’s continuation of its Powertech hearings. The more the public knows about the project before it starts, the more comfortable local residents will be to have Powertech as a neighbor, if the project were to go forward.

Next week, the state Water Management Board will convene hearings in Rapid City on Powertech’s water permit application, which we hope will be as informative.

___

Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, Sept. 28, 2013

Sports facilities boost USD, SDSU

Some long-awaited improvements to athletic facilities on South Dakota’s two major university campuses are getting closer to reality.

In Vermillion, a plan to build a 6,000-seat basketball arena and other athletic and classroom facilities has been approved by the Board of Regents and the Legislature. University of South Dakota officials hope to start construction yet this year.

In addition to the arena, outdoor track and soccer facilities are planned as well as a three-story building to house physical therapy, occupational therapy, kinesiology and sports sciences departments, all connected to the Dakota Dome. The price tag is estimated at $58 million.

South Dakota State University’s plans for a new football stadium will be back before the Board of Regents this fall for approval. The Legislature then will have to sign off and, of course, the funding mechanisms finalized, but a 2016 opening is projected.

The $60 million to $65 million stadium planned at SDSU will seat 18,500. If the Regents and Legislature approve the project, construction on the seating and press box areas could begin in November 2014. The facility will replace Coughlin-Alumni Stadium, which opened in 1962. The new structure will feature more seats, restrooms and concession areas as well as luxury suites.

SDSU just broke ground on the Sanford-Jackrabbit Athletic Complex, a $32 million privately funded indoor track and training facility, as well.

It’s good to see these ambitious projects moving ahead. The enhancements are sorely needed.

Building projects on state campuses have been difficult endeavors. Much of the necessary funding for such improvements must come from private donors. Presidents David Chicoine and Jim Abbott should be commended for the hard work they and their development staffs have done through the years to generate the money needed for educational and research facilities as well as athletic buildings.

When finished, the new football stadium and basketball arena will be more than sports facilities. They also will enhance the collegiate experience for the thousands who attend classes at SDSU and USD.

In addition, they’re great selling points for the universities and should help generate energy and enthusiasm among alumni and potential donors.

The Board of Regents should give final approval to the SDSU plan in December, and the Legislature should follow suit.

Both of these campus endeavors are good for South Dakota.

___

American News, Aberdeen, Oct. 2, 2013

Eureka rewarded for its due diligence

It is foolish to expect a young person to follow your advice and to ignore your example.

It is not what you teach, but what you emphasize.

Your example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing — which is sage advice when you are trying to teach young people. Giving advice is one thing, however, following it is taking the lesson to a whole new level.

So instead of just telling the children to do their homework, the Eureka school board hunkered down and did some homework of its own. The board faced a tough decision a few years ago after its heating system went down. So the district researched costs of various systems, including solar power, corn burner, geothermal energy, electricity and fuel oil, which the school had been using.

Some candidates were quickly eliminated. Solar energy was found to be an ineffective replacement.

The corn burner system would have only worked for half the school. A geothermal system would have cost $1.6 million.

“If we were building new, that would be the sensible choice,” Eureka superintendent Bo Beck said. “But it was cost-prohibitive.”

It was decided coal would be the best way to heat the school, since coal prices generally stay steady. Some challenges came with convincing community members that a coal system would not spread ash all over the school and town.

More homework was done by visiting schools with coal-heating systems. They discovered those systems were working well for those schools and their communities, and there were not problems with ash.

“Coal won out with its cost-effectiveness,” Beck said.

It cost $235,000 to install the coal-based heating system. Coal costs are usually about $20,000 annually, but it depends on the severity of winter weather.

According to projections, the school would be paying about $70,000 had it kept its old fuel oil.

“We’ve been really happy with the savings and the efficiency of our heating system,” Beck said. “The taxpayers are probably happy with the savings as well.”

The savings are truly piling up for the Eureka board. But the lesson of it leading its children by example is priceless.

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