PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Hundreds of industrial sites throughout South Dakota soon will be charged an annual stormwater fee so federal clean-water targets can be met.

The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources received approval for the change Tuesday from the Legislature’s Rules Review Committee.

The annual fee ranges from $100 to $800 based on ground area and type of business, with a $2,500 cap for multiple sites owned by one business. The fee covers a wide variety of sites, from landfills and sewage plants to tanneries and ore processors.

Secretary Hunter Roberts estimated that $233,400 would be generated. The plan calls for the fee revenue to pay for more state inspections of construction and industrial sites and provide better services to businesses that the department sees as its customers, Kelli Buscher told the review panel. She is the administrator for the department’s surface water quality program, which is responsible for South Dakota meeting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s clean-water requirements.

“What we’re planning to do with the additional industrial fees is we’re going to increase our inspection presence. Right now we’re doing less than five percent of the inspections that EPA requires us to do under this program,” Buscher told the review panel.

“So we’re going to have a stronger presence, and you should see that reflected in the numbers that we provide each year in our … budget numbers, you’ll see an increased inspection presence. We’re also hoping to develop a training program. We’ve already done it on the construction side, we would like to expand that and reach out to our industrial sites. We’ve seen a lot of need for that, we’ve had some requests for that training. So our plan is to develop that training program as well.

“And then the third piece that we had talked about with this is we needed to have a better online presence. We’ve gotten that on the construction side. We still need to get our applications and forms online to have a better — provide better customer service,” she said.

DENR and the state Department of Agriculture are merging to form the new Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The state Senate came within one yes of disapproving Governor Kristi Noem’s plan for the merger.

Senator Jean Hunhoff had voted against the disapproval but pressed Buscher Tuesday about ensuring the fee revenue results in more inspections. Regarding the less than 5%, Hunhoff said, “To me, that’s not a satisfactory number.”

Replied Buscher: “I agree with you completely. This was why we came forward with the need for these fees. We were not able to meet our obligations under the program. So right now what we’re expected to do is they (EPA) ask for 10% of our facilities that we go on to inspect each year. So that would be about 80 inspections.

“Right now, the ones that we’re doing, we’re doing just a handful and it’s usually in conjunction with other inspections that we’re doing out there. We’ve got a number of sites that we’ve not visited before and that needs to change,” Buscher continued.

Representative Kevin Jensen asked whether the cost was the reason for not doing more inspections. Answered Buscher, “Staffing availability has been our issue.”

The legislation authorizing the fee was passed in 2018 while Steve Pirner was in charge of the department. After she took office, Noem appointed Roberts as DENR secretary. Last summer she named Roberts as interim agriculture secretary and announced the merger.

Among other actions Tuesday, the lawmakers green-lighted changes to state highway speed zones made by the state Transportation Commission. Those included:

Reducing the speed limit to 55 mph on US 18 through Dallas for three-tenths of a mile in Gregory County;

Extending the 55 mph zone on SD 1804 north of Pierre by about one mile, so it covers the Whispering Pines subdivision in Hughes County;

Reconfiguring the speed limits on SD 34 to add a transition zone at 55 mph in Egan in Moody County; and

Extending the 35 and 45 mph zones on US 12 north of Selby to cover the entrance of a new store in Walworth County.