PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Rural residents from the flood-prone Lake Thompson and Lake Henry area of Kingsbury County have received the green light to hold an election on whether to form a water project district that would have taxing power and local financial support and could seek state and federal assistance to reduce or respond to new flooding.

The state Board of Water and Natural Resources on Thursday approved a resolution recognizing that the petition was valid and calling for a local vote to happen within 60 days. If voters establish the district, a second election would be held to choose the district’s directors.

Publicly supporting the effort are the Kingsbury County Commission and four state legislators from the broader area: Republican Sen. Casey Crabtree, Republican Rep. Roger Chase, Republican Rep. John Mills and Republican Rep. Tim Reisch.

One of the petition drive’s organizers, James Knight, told the state board that farmers and lakeside residents want an official body that can contract for engineering or other studies, gather information and pursue funding.

He said there were questions and missed opportunities during the 2019-2021 flood that disrupted routine services such as propane delivery and sewage removal. The 2011 flood forced some residents to temporarily move and prevented access to firefighters and law enforcement.

“All of this would be done with approval and cooperation of the appropriate state and federal agencies,” Knight said. “I’m certain it can happen. I just don’t know if water project districts have ever applied for funds from this body.”

One of the state board’s staff, Mike Perkovich, said the Terry Valley-Trojan water project district has received some state funds. Perkovich said the Lake Thompson water project district could seek funds from state government’s consolidated water facilities construction program.

According to Knight, the area’s Four Lakes Association has already budgeted $10,000 for startup funding.

The state board on Thursday also approved $90.6 million of grants and loans for drinking water, wastewater, storm water, and solid waste projects in South Dakota. For more, go here.