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Cheyenne River Reservation To Get Improved Water System

April 24, 2014, 10:00 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

Cheyenne River Reservation To Get Improved Water System
EAGLE BUTTE, SD -

Its current system can't keep up with demand, but a more reliable water source is coming to the Cheyenne River Reservation.

Pipes will soon be underground, delivering water from the Missouri River to a new water treatment plant. Crews will also install a waterline from the plant to Eagle Butte.

"It was overwhelming to be able to gather all the funding and get to the point where we are today," Tri-County Water general manager Leo Fischer said.

The existing plant only processes 1.2 million gallons of water a day. That's hampered housing and economic development, both of which are needed on the reservation.

"We have no ability to access water so we have projects that are on hold," tribal chairman Kevin Keckler said. "So it's been a very big hindrance in terms of what we can do."

Officials at a ground breaking ceremony Thursday, including chairman Keckler, said the lack of water has also affected healthcare. When this phase of the project is done, it will meet current demand and can expand in the future.

The next step will be to improve the infrastructure carrying water elsewhere on the reservation. Some of the existing pipes are too small and water from the new plant will also service new areas both on and off the reservation.

That distribution phase is more than $300 million. George Waters is a lobbyist for the tribe and says he's been in contact with multiple federal agencies already.

"We've had some positive responses but it's a lot of money so I think we're going to have to do it in bite-size chunks, phases at a time," Waters said.

The treatment plant together with the lines running to and from it cost more than $70 million. The U.S. Agriculture Department's Office of Rural Development is covering 75 percent of the cost. The tribe is paying for the remaining 25 percent.

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