Residents question pumped storage project near Platte

Published: Mar. 6, 2023 at 5:38 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -After retiring from Omaha, Nebraska, Steve Sitzman bought his dream property just outside of Platte and a short distance from Lake Francis Case.

“I thought that I would live here for 20 years and be able to walleye fish every afternoon. My whole life savings I thought I had planned pretty well until I heard about this project,” said Sitzman.

His concerns are surrounding the Gregory County Pump project’s application with the Federal Energy and Regulator commission, to move water creating hydropower.

“When the price is low, we’ll pump it up to the reservoir, and then when the wind’s not blowing, that’s when the prices get higher, and they will call on us next to release that water and generate,” said Joni Livingston with Missouri River Energy.

Missouri River Energy, along with co-applicant Mid-American Energy, want to avoid power outages like what happened during recent winter storms.

“They called for rolling blackouts, and Winner was one that had to take that, and that really got our attention,” said Livingston.

Up on the bluff, Jim Hogrefe was approached to sell part of his multi-generation farm.

“1700 acres of our ranch,” said Hogrefe.

He remembers when other projects in the area fell through due to unstable land near the river.

“I have seen fencing disappear underneath, and it slid away. With that being said, I don’t think they can hold these tubes in place. And I don’t think that reservoir is secure,” said Hogrefe.

He has other questions.

“What sediment will that put in the river?” said Hogrefe.

The applicants are launching in-depth studies.

“We’re trying to understand what impacts there may be with the project in all phases,” said Missouri River Energy Resources Director Brent Moeller.” “On fishing, for example, if the studies identify a problem in that area, we’re obligated to rectify the issue.”

Ecologist and South Dakota native Elijah Small has concerns about the endangered species, with the release of possibly warmer, oxygen-depleted water back into the Lake.

“One of the last refuges of things like pallid sturgeon in the state and in North America,” said Small

And the Native American community has serious concerns about the ancestral sacred ground. Faith Spotted Eagle has fought other battles.

“I would do it again,” said Spotted Eagle.

She wants to find answers.

“When you have those intakes, how are they going to prevent some of those endangered species from being sucked up?” said Spotted Eagle.

A recent meeting of 300 people is unifying those who love the area.

“It did my heart good to listen to them say that they’re ready to fight for the river. And so it’s about time that Native and non-Native people come together to fight for our rivers,” said Spotted Eagle.

Those applying for the project tell our I-team they’re ready to listen.

“And to collaborate on solutions so that if this project moves forward, it is beneficial for the communities and the residents of those communities,” said Tin Hoffman, VP of Communications for Mid American Energy.

The Federal energy regulatory commission is accepting your input on the application for the project until Friday.