PIERRE | State regulators are considering a plan to construct a 110-megawatt solar generating facility in northwest Oglala Lakota County on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
The project, called Lookout Solar Park 1, would have 18 single-line transmission cables covering 11 miles in Custer County. The state Public Utilities Commission decided Jan. 17 the facility required a state permit. A staff attorney for the commission had recommended the facility didn’t need state approval.
It was the first jurisdiction decision by the commission regarding a solar facility on a reservation.
A lawyer representing the project argued the state government shouldn’t have jurisdiction over a project proposed on a tribal reservation created by the federal government.
A staff lawyer for the commission recommended Wednesday a five-mile radius be designated as the area where a local review committee will consider potential effects.
There aren’t any communities within the five-mile radius. The community of Red Shirt is within 10 miles. Fairburn, Buffalo Gap, Oral and Smithwick are within 20 miles.
A megawatt-hour “is about equivalent to the amount of electricity used by about 330 homes during one hour,” according to a definition on the Clean Energy Authority website.
The commission received the request regarding state authority over the project Dec. 22.
The solar facility would cost an estimated $12 million, according to the developer. It said the associated transmission facilities would cost approximately $15 million.
The company is based in Sacramento, Calif. Its application came from the office in Washington, D.C., of Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe, an international law firm.
A map for the project filed Nov. 9 with the state agency showed the transmission lines would follow Riverside Road, 148 Avenue and Cottonwood Cutoff.
Transmission lines would be tunneled beneath the Cheyenne River in six bundles.
An average of 200 people would be temporarily employed during construction, with a portion hired from the Oglala Sioux Tribe and Custer County, according to the notice of intent.
The current plan calls for construction to start as early as June and finish before the 2019-2020 winter.
A rite of the coming spring season in downtown Rapid City is the traditional reopening of Armadillo's Ice Cream Shoppe on March 1.
This week's warmer weather, with temperatures in the high 40s and lower 50s, has melted some of the heavy cover of white from a series of February snowstorms in the region.
The not-quite-short-sleeved weather brought a steady flow of customers to Armadillo's seeking ice cream and other cold delights on Friday in spite of a stubbornly chilly breeze.
But this week's warming trend may be short lived, with the forecast of another spring tradition in the Northern Plains: a fast-moving snowstorm expected to bring the potential of blizzard conditions with freezing rain, more heavy snow and gusting winds starting on Sunday and continuing through Monday.
Armadillo's manager Austin Brummer was resigned to the temporary return of winter weather this weekend but pleased with the return of his customers on Thursday.
"At least the weather was good for our opening day," he said. "That's all I care about."
With the rate of suicide deaths remaining steady or on the rise in South Dakota, the state’s Department of Social Services and Department of Health has joined with the South Dakota Helpline Center to develop toolkits for communities to help prevent suicide.
“Suicide does not discriminate and can happen to anyone regardless of age, gender or ethnicity,” said Lynne Valenti, Dept. of Social Services Secretary, in a release. “Suicide deaths are on the rise, and communities play a critical role in suicide prevention.”
Each toolkit, available for viewing or download at sdsuicideprevention.org, targets a specific audience or activity with a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention.
Toolkits are designed to support a community in rallying around suicide prevention, said state Department of Social Services spokeswoman Tia Kafka, in an email.
Toolkits available include Building a Coalition, Employer Toolkits, Native American Toolkits, Healthcare Toolkits, Senior Care Toolkits and Military Member and Veteran Related Toolkits.
“The step-by-step guides in each toolkit give communities the resources they need to get the conversation started to address suicide,” said Valenti.
“Suicide deaths are preventable, and communities can help by creating community coalitions that can review and evaluate local data and develop suicide prevention action plans.”
Suicide is the ninth leading cause of death in South Dakota, and the second leading cause of death for individuals age 15 to 34.
“Preliminary data for 2017 shows the number of suicide deaths in South Dakota will surpass the previous record high of 173 suicide deaths that occurred in 2015,” said Department of Health Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon.
In addition to the toolkits, the website lists additional information on the warning signs, how to get help, support groups and upcoming suicide prevention trainings.
Individuals in need of help are encouraged to call the South Dakota Helpline Center at 800-273-TALK (8255) or one of the other resources listed at sdsuicideprevention.org/get-help/crisis-resources. Services are available 24/7.
For more information about behavioral health services or to find a Community Mental Health Center nearby, contact the Department of Social Services’ Division of Behavioral Health at 605-773-3123 or online at dss.sd.gov/behavioralhealth/.
Editor's note: This is an installment of Campaign Roundup, a periodic feature in the Journal this year.
Republican candidate for governor Marty Jackley has rolled out a campaign of endorsements from community leaders across South Dakota and is planning a grand opening of his Rapid City campaign headquarters.
Jackley, the state's current attorney general, has been announcing endorsements from community leaders for the past couple of weeks. Those endorsers have included Roger Musick, CEO of Innovative Systems in Mitchell; Dean Kinney, CEO at The HomeSlice Group in Sturgis; Kevin Bjordahl, a family physician from Milbank; and Gordon Nielsen, a lawyer from Sisseton.
Jackley will conduct a grand opening of his Rapid City campaign headquarters from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday at 706 St. Joseph St.
'Ask Dusty' video series
Republican U.S. House candidate Dusty Johnson answered questions this week as part of a Facebook video series he is calling “Ask Dusty.” In this week’s segment, Johnson said the three House committees he would like to serve on are Agriculture, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Education and Workforce.
Johnson also shared his thoughts on net-neutrality, which he said is a topic he is familiar with through his job at Mitchell-based telecommunications firm Vantage Point Solutions.
“I do not think that your internet service provider should be blocking or throttling your lawful content,” Johnson said. “In that way, I agree with much of the open internet, bright-line rules. But the way that the old FCC imposed those rules was crazy. We don’t need the old-style, monopoly regulation applied to the internet. What we need to do is Congress has to act. They have to create a new approach, an approach that acknowledges the vibrancy and the energy that comes with the internet.”
Tapio on school shooting
Republican U.S. House candidate Neal Tapio said in a Tuesday news release that reforms in recent years to South Dakota’s criminal and juvenile justice systems are “philosophically identical” to a system in Florida that failed to stop a gunman from killing 17 people during a Feb. 14 school shooting.
Tapio, who currently serves as a state senator from Watertown, said South Dakota is following a model of justice reform that has sought to minimize incarceration and has left the state’s schools and communities vulnerable to a similar tragedy.
“The shooter had identified himself on Facebook as a ‘professional school shooter.’ He had over 30 contacts with the Sheriff Department,” Tapio said. “Multiple people called the authorities, yet he was still out walking around and able to carry out his deadly plan.”
Tapio said blaming guns is a “misdirection effort” to hide the failure of justice reforms.
Following are some Black Hills-area candidates who have recently filed petitions to run in the June 5 primary and Nov. 6 general election.
• Legislature: Bill Hines, R-Martin, for state Senate in District 27; Jason D. Hill, Libertarian-Belle Fourche, for state House in District 28B; Michael T. Hanson, D-Box Elder, for state House in District 35; Timothy Ray Goodwin, R-Rapid City, for state House in District 30.
• Jackson County: Tom Zickrick, R-Long Valley, for county commission in District 3; Gerard Magelky, R-Kadoka, for county commission in District 5.
• Haakon County: Carla Smith, R-Philip, for county auditor.
• Meade County: Rod Bradley, R-Sturgis, for county commission in District 1.
• Fall River County: Joe A. Falkenburg, R-Edgemont, for county commissioner at-large; Melody A. Engebretson, R-Hot Springs, for register of deeds.