Keystone XL work camps would bring hundreds to S.D. areas with few law enforcement officers

Capitol News Bureau
Federal Judge Blocks Construction Of Keystone XL Pipeline

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A data researcher testified Monday the Keystone XL project would bring hundreds of workers into rural areas of South Dakota that have only handfuls of law enforcement officers to handle big areas.

The South Dakota Water Management Board is holding a contested hearing on permits the proposed oil pipeline seeks for construction through western South Dakota.

Board chairman Jim Hutmacher, of Oacoma, told lawyers for the various sides to be ready to present closing arguments Tuesday.

The hearing has been one of the longest in decades. The board previously took testimony October 3-4, October 29-31 and December 17-20.

The board heard from several witnesses Monday including Joseph Robertson, who testified about law enforcement capacity as a witness for the Yankton Sioux Tribe.

Robertson, who has a doctorate from South Dakota State University in computational science and statistics, is a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate and is chief data scientist for Mato Ohitika Analytics in Sioux Falls.

The project’s South Dakota segment calls for four construction camps at sites in Harding, Meade, Haakon and Tripp counties. Robertson looked specifically at the Tripp County camp at Colome that he said is expected to have more than 1,000 construction workers.

Robertson presented data that the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and the Yankton Sioux Tribe have small law-enforcement forces who cover either the same number of people as the Rapid City Police Department, or twice as many, depending how they are counted, but have much larger territories that could require hours to respond to service calls.

Rapid City police have one officer for every 0.42 square mile in the city; the Rosebud Sioux have one officer for every 86 square miles of trust land; and the Yankton Sioux have one officer for 9.4 miles of trust land and one officer for every 69 miles of Charles Mix County.

Those ratios become complicated, Robertson said, because the Colome camp would be 72.5 miles from the Rosebud Sioux gambling casino on the Nebraska border, and 82.4 miles from the Yankton Sioux gambling casino at Fort Randall.

He said the pipeline project would mean assuming a risk that some men from the camps would seek places such as casinos where they could spend money gambling and drinking alcohol. His handout included this statement: “This will potentially put a strain on law enforcement should they be called to more remote locations in their official duties and an incident occurs.”

Robertson told the board he was “deeply concerned” about risk the situation could pose for women and children. “This isn’t just a tribal-community problem,” Robertson said. “All of our citizens potentially would be at risk.”

The TC Energy project calls for building a pipeline to haul crude oil from the tar sands at Hardisty, Alberta, across the Canada-U.S. border into Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, where it would connect to an existing network at Steele City near the Kansas border.

The South Dakota segment of the project also seeks expansion of two existing water permits held by Wink Cattle Company and the Tom and Lori Wilson ranch.

The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources supports granting the three sets of permits. Opposing the project are tribal and landowner groups. The company has another pipeline running through eastern South Dakota.

The proposed route carefully skirts through western South Dakota and avoids crossing reservations created by the U.S. Congress. Tribal people argue that all of what’s now western South Dakota previously was the Great Sioux Nation that the Fort Laramie treaty of 1868 established.

Another witness Monday was Faith Spotted Eagle, a member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe. She gave examples of native women being harassed, including several recent instances.

Spotted Eagle said the Missouri River dams wiped out thousands of cultural sites important to tribal people including women. She said potential pollution was a matter of “reproductive justice” because of potential effects on unborn children in women’s wombs.

“We’re not talking just native women,” she said.

She said the board should put up “a stop sign” and allow data gathering before making permit decisions. She described as “children” the non-native people who began moving during the 1800s into what’s now South Dakota.

“We are your stand-in grandparents, and we are warning you,” she said.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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