Stormwater fees set for S.D. industrial sites

Capitol News Bureau
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PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A state government agency intends to start collecting money for stormwater discharge permits at industrial and construction sites one acre and larger in South Dakota.

The state Water Management Board voted 6-0 on Wednesday for a system of tiered fees that the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources wants to charge.

The proposed fees now need final clearance from the Legislature’s Rules Review Committee.

Those six lawmakers plan to meet Monday afternoon to consider proposed rules for industrial hemp. Whether they would add the stormwater fees to the agenda wasn’t immediately known.

The proposed stormwater fees range from $100 to $800 per year per site, depending on the type of business, with a $2,500 maximum, and would begin accruing January 1, 2022.

They would generate an estimated $190,000 more for the department, based on approximately 850 industrial sites that currently have stormwater discharge permits.

The department explains the plan here on its website.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency wants states to inspect at least 5% of permitted stormwater sites each year, Brett Steers, an environmental engineer for the South Dakota department, told the board. He gave the presentation.

“We have not been meeting that 5%,” Steers said, adding that the department has been operating “well below what is required from EPA.”

Steers said the department hasn’t set a structure yet for conducting more visits to permitted sites.

The fees result from changes the Legislature approved three years ago at the department’s request.

The primary witness at those legislative hearings was Kelli Buscher, whose responsibilities at the department included stormwater permitting.

EPA delegated stormwater regulations to South Dakota in 1993. For those duties, the department depended on federal grants and municipal stormwater fees until the law was updated in 2018.

Buscher, an engineer, told lawmakers the money from adding fees for industrial sites would pay for filling several vacant positions on her staff, offer training and put stormwater permits online.

“When we first got the program, the (existing) fees fully covered it. They no longer do. We’re trying to be self-sufficient again,” she said.

Governor Kristi Noem announced earlier this year she will file with the Legislature in January an executive order merging the DENR and the state Department of Agriculture. Lawmakers will have five days to decide whether to let it happen.

The new department would be known as the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Secretary Hunter Roberts currently manages both departments. He has told state boards that enforcement of regulations won’t be reduced.

During the run-up to the hearing Wednesday, a member of the family for one of the affected businesses — Nordstrom’s Automotive at Garretson — emailed the department to express qualified support and encourage attention to businesses operating less ethically in protecting water.

“The proposed fees, while a new expense that nobody wants, would be acceptable, but only if used correctly,” Shannon Nordstrom wrote. “We want to work to create South Dakota common sense based standards, working together.”

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