SD environmental board sets dates for Keystone XL water permit hearings

Walking up Main Street the procession protesting against the Keystone XL pipeline makes its way to Andrew W. Bogue Federal Courthouse in downtown Rapid City on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. Adam Fondren / Rapid City Journal

PIERRE, S.D. — Zora Lone Eagle of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe said she recently had a dream where she was testifying in South Dakota's Capitol in Pierre when a buffalo burst into the hearing room.

In her dream, an elder told her not to be afraid, but to listen to the animal. She hopped on its back and it took her to the Cheyenne River, where it told her to look beneath the water's surface. Below clear water and fish, Lone Eagle said she saw a pipeline, out of which swam black snakes.

Scared, she jumped out of the water and asked the bison what to do. He told her to "tell everyone."

On Wednesday, July 17 , Lone Eagle stood in the same hearing room she saw in her dream and told the state's Water Management Board, "As Lakota, we understand what my dream means."

Lone Eagle was one of a room full of activists who came to the board's meeting Wednesday to ask them to reject TC Energy's — formally known as TransCanada — five water permits needed to construct the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline through South Dakota.


TC Energy's planned route for the pipeline through the state would make several water crossings, notably across the Cheyenne and White Rivers, and man camps for pipeline construction workers would require water resources. The board on Wednesday did not make any rulings on the Keystone XL applications, except to set dates for five future hearings later this fall.

The first two hearings will be held October 3 and 4, and the next three October 29, 30 and 31. Parties from both sides must make available their lists of exhibits and witnesses by August 30.

There was over an hour of public comment following the board's scheduling, with most commentators coming from South Dakota, and some hailing from Nebraska, Colorado and Maryland.

Representatives for TC Energy were present, but did not comment on the contents of their applications or on opposition during the day's proceedings — only on the hearing scheduling matter.

Those opposing the pipeline cited environmental concerns, particularly in the event of oil spills into Missouri River tributaries and groundwater. Several evoked the Lakota phrase "Mni Wičoni," or "water is life," and asked the board to "think of future generations" when making their decision.

TC Energy's planned route does not enter currently federally recognized tribal land, but does cut through the historic Great Sioux Nation , near the Rosebud reservation, and crosses tribal water sources like the Cheyenne River.

Mearhoff is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. You can reach her at or 651-290-0707.
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