PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A panel that assigns water rights in South Dakota needs at least three more days to hear from witnesses about whether an oil pipeline should be allowed to flow through the state.
But board chairman Jim Hutmacher said lawyers and citizens involved in the case need to meet again at the Capitol starting December 17.
He said they should plan for at least three days and possibly four.
They might need still more time for witnesses after that, according to Hutmacher, a water-well driller from Oacoma.
“We’ll just have to see where we’re at,” he told KELOLAND News.
More than one dozen citizens and lawyers representing tribal governments and groups have formally intervened. They’re trying to stop a project that got a second wind after the 2016 election of Republican Donald Trump as U.S. president.
The large number of people formally participating has meant frequent objections from one side or another, often minute upon minute.
“We’re getting about half the things done that we were planning to get done,” Hutmacher said.
TC Energy, formerly known as TransCanada, wants to ship oil from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, through Montana and western South Dakota into Nebraska, where the pipeline would connect to an existing network.
The company applied last October for South Dakota permits to tap the Cheyenne, White and Bad rivers.
Two ranch families along the South Dakota segment also applied to expand their well permits to supply camps for construction workers.
“They deserve an answer too,” Hutmacher said about the applicants. “This is so different, because we have so many intervenors.”
The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources recommended the permits January 14.
The hearing so far has been in the Legislature’s largest committee room on the Capitol’s fourth floor. State Highway Patrol troopers have a screening checkpoint at the entrance.
But that location becomes unavailable at least four days per week when the 2020 legislative session opens January 14. The main run of the session ends Thursday, March 12.
An option is the board could go back to the smaller space in the Matthew Training Center at the Foss Building, where its regular meetings usually have been.
“If we can, we’ll move across the street again,” Hutmacher said.