Rosebud Sioux President, Keystone XL witness present different views about S.D. water permits

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The state Water Management Board heard more testimony from opposite sides Thursday about whether the Keystone XL pipeline should be permitted to run through western South Dakota.

TC Energy, formerly known as TransCanada, wants to send crude oil from Alberta on a route across the Canada-U.S. border through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, where it would connect with an existing network.

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The South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources has recommended the board grant permits to build and test the line using water from the Cheyenne, White and Bad rivers.

Greg Tencer, project director for Gulf Interstate Engineering and a witness for Keystone XL, told the board Thursday that pipeline installers have stopped using casings to go under rivers and streams. 

Tencer was responding to a question from board chairman Jim Hutmacher, of Oacoma. 

Tencer said installers have switched practices in recent decades and now use thicker-walled pipe under water bodies. 

A leak would follow a path of least resistance and travel through the stream bed’s soil out to the bank, rather than surface through the water, he said. 

Hutmacher, a water-well driller, said the explanation made sense.

Rosebud Sioux Tribal President Rodney Bordeaux testified that the U.S. government reached treaties with the region’s Indian tribes in 1851 and 1868 at Fort Laramie.

He said the pipeline route would be “very near” a spiritual camp on Rosebud tribal trust land and “very close” to Indian communities.

“We have trust areas all the way along that route,” Bordeaux said. He said the pipeline would be a violation of the Fort Laramie treaties. Roughly 70 percent of tribal members’ drinking water comes from groundwater and 30 percent from the Mni Wiconi rural pipeline.

He said the Rosebud tribal constitution requires the tribal government’s officials to look forward seven generations. “We need to make sure we’ve got safe drinking water and it stays that way,” Bordeaux said. 

Bordeaux said as tribal president he uses a United Nation declaration on rights of indigenous people. Bordeaux said article 32 is especially important, because it says states shall consult with indigenous people, particularly about mineral, water or other resources.  

Bill Taylor, a Sioux Falls lawyer representing Keystone XL, said his side didn’t have any questions for Bordeaux. Ann Mines Bailey, a lawyer representing DENR, said she didn’t either.

Bordeaux told Dakota Rural Action lawyer Bruce Ellison the Fort Laramie treaties’ eastern border began at the east bank of the Missouri River and continued west, including the Cheyenne, White and Bad rivers.

The Yankton Sioux Tribe also signed the 1851 Fort Laramie treaty, Bordeaux said. They also oppose Keystone XL.

Did state government consult with the Rosebud tribe about Keystone XL? asked Elizabeth Lone Eagle, another opponent to the pipeline. “No. Not to my knowledge. No,” Bordeaux told her.

At least six witnesses plan to testify Friday as the hearing enters its ninth day. Hutmacher said he didn’t know if they would finish or the hearing would have to continue in the new year.

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