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About 230 miles worth of green metal pipe, stored by TransCanada for its stalled Keystone XL pipeline, gathers snow, dust and tumbleweeds in a laydown yard where it's been stored near Gascoyne since 2011. Lauren Donovan / Bismarck Tribune

TransCanada seeks water permits for Keystone XL construction in South Dakota

RAPID CITY, S.D. — South Dakota regulators are considering several water permit applications for the proposed construction of the Keystone XL crude-oil pipeline.

TransCanada, the Canadian company seeking to build the pipeline, recently applied for three permits to withdraw water from the Cheyenne, Bad and White rivers in western South Dakota. Additionally, at least two sets of western South Dakota landowners recently applied to use existing wells as backup water supplies for pipeline construction workforce camps.

The landowners are Wink Cattle Co., care of former legislator Dean Wink, of Howes, and Tom and Lori Wilson, of Buffalo.

In the three applications from TransCanada, the sum of the requested water withdrawals is about 167 million gallons annually.

The applications say the water would be used during the construction of the pipeline for dust control, horizontal-directional drilling, pump-station construction and hydrostatic testing of the pipeline.

The chief engineer of the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources recommended approval of the permits, which are scheduled to be considered by the state Water Management Board at 1 p.m. March 6 in the Joe Foss Building in Pierre. The hearing will be automatically delayed for at least 20 days if anyone files petitions against the applications and asks for a delay by Feb. 25.

The Keystone XL pipeline would run from Alberta, Canada, to Steele City, Neb., where it would connect with existing pipelines.

The Keystone XL would enter South Dakota at a spot 32 miles northwest of Buffalo and run in a southeasterly direction through the South Dakota counties of Harding, Butte, Perkins, Pennington, Haakon, Jones, Lyman, Meade and Tripp. The pipeline would exit South Dakota about 20 miles southeast of Colome.

In November, a federal judge in Montana filed an injunction prohibiting TransCanada from pipeline construction activities and some pre-construction activity. The judge ruled that the Trump administration had not fully considered the environmental effects when it approved a permit to build the pipeline.

Since the judge’s ruling, TransCanada has said on its website, “We have received the judge’s ruling and continue to review it. We remain committed to building this important energy infrastructure project.”

Matthew John, a TransCanada spokesman, said Tuesday the company had been preparing pipe yards and locations for workforce accommodations, transporting pipe and equipment, performing road upgrades and conducting stakeholder relations work in South Dakota. Since the judge's order was issued, TransCanada has suspended the road work, the pipe yard and camp preparations, and the movement of pipe while continuing with stakeholder engagement activities and internal planning.

TransCanada’s three water permit applications in South Dakota were submitted in October. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources used stream gauges maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey and existing water rights data to evaluate the applications.

While determining whether to recommend approval of the water permits, DENR followed state law that directs the agency to consider whether unappropriated water is available, whether existing water rights would be unlawfully impaired, if the proposed use of water is beneficial and whether the proposed use is in the public interest.

On the Cheyenne River, TransCanada wants to annually pump 238.21 acre-feet (about 78 million gallons), at a maximum pump rate of 3,000 gallons per minute, from a point on the river that is 36 miles south of Faith. The location is just off the southwest tip of the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, near the reservation community of Bridger.

“The lower Cheyenne River is considered a reliable water source,” the DENR said in a written report on the application.

On the White River, TransCanada wants to annually withdraw 223.68 acre-feet (about 73 million gallons), at a maximum pump rate of 3,000 gallons per minute, from a diversion point 14 miles south and 6 miles west of Presho.

The DENR is recommending that any pumping out of the White River after June 1, when flows are typically lower, should require written authorization. Additionally, the department is recommending no pumping from the White River when its flow drops below 20 cubic feet per second.

And on the Bad River, TransCanada wants to annually withdraw 50.44 acre-feet (about 16 million gallons), at a maximum pump rate of 300 gallons per minute, from a diversion point 2.5 miles east of Midland.

The DENR is recommending that no pumping from the Bad River be allowed when less than 6 cubic feet per second is flowing past the diversion point, unless written authorization has been obtained.