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Billy Moreland, seen here hitting the ball against the Spearfish Sasquatch, had two RBIs in the first game of a doubleheader against the Western Nebraska Pioneers on Tuesday.

Juvenile drug arrests rise in S.D. despite reform efforts, Part I

Over the past decade, South Dakota saw a significant increase in the number of juveniles arrested for drug crimes, and officials see few signs that the arrests will fall anytime soon despite recent reforms of the state juvenile justice system.

According to state crime data, the number of youths arrested on drug charges such as possession, use and distribution nearly doubled from 579 in 2008 to 1,043 in 2012. Since 2012, the number of juvenile arrests for drug crimes hasn’t fallen below 948. The number peaked at 1,062 in 2015, the same year a set of sweeping new juvenile justice reforms went into effect.

State officials are uncertain whether the upward trend in arrests means that more young people are actually using drugs, if more are being caught due to increased enforcement, or whether the juvenile justice system reforms of 2015 that sought to keep juveniles out of jail has inadvertently led to a higher re-offense rate by some juvenile drug users. The number of juveniles arrested for all other crimes not related to drugs has fallen across the state in recent years.

The rise in juvenile drug arrests comes as the state is already grappling with increased arrest rates of adults on drug charges. The number of adults arrested for drug crimes in South Dakota climbed from 2,778 in 2008 to 9,080 in 2018, an increase of nearly 227%.

Law enforcement and judicial officials have in the past blamed much of the rise in adult arrests on the methamphetamine epidemic and also the proliferation of opioid addiction in South Dakota. While the reasons for the climbing juvenile drug arrests are less clear, the arrest numbers for juveniles and adults are causing concern among state officials that the drug problem in South Dakota needs constant focus.

“Drug crime is something that’s growing in South Dakota, and it’s something we need to pay attention to,” said Tim Bormann, chief of staff to South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg.

The high juvenile drug arrest rate gave the state some unflattering national attention earlier this year. In March, 2019, a study conducted by the Greenhouse Treatment Facility in Grand Prairie, Texas, showed that South Dakota had the highest juvenile drug arrest rate in the nation in 2017. According to the study, 1,056 juvenile drug arrests were made that year, a rate of more than 45 juveniles per 10,000 South Dakotans under the age of 18. The Greenhouse study was based on data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 2017 Uniform Crime Report.

By comparison, Wyoming, the state with the second-highest rate of juvenile drug arrests in the study, had 579 such arrests and a rate of about 35 drug arrests per 10,000 juveniles. North Dakota was third in the ranking, with 479 juvenile drug arrests for about 17 arrests per 10,000 juveniles in 2017.

Minnesota, population 5.6 million, reported 1,893 total juvenile drug arrests in 2017 for a rate of about 14 arrests per 10,000 youths. Montana, Iowa and Nebraska all reported fewer juvenile drug arrests than South Dakota and much lower arrest rates.

South Dakota officials, however, say the rate in the Greenhouse study doesn’t tell the whole story.

Greg Sattizahn, chairman of the South Dakota Juvenile Justice Oversight Committee, which monitors the state’s juvenile justice reform efforts, said the Uniform Crime Report isn’t supposed to be used to rank states. Sattizahn said there are too many factors unaccounted for in the data, including that not every jurisdiction in every state reports their statistics to the FBI.

Greg Sattizahn, chair of the South Dakota Juvenile Justice Oversight Committee, provides an overview of what the oversight committee has focused on over the past four years and gives a quick look at the committee’s plans for the future. At least some of the increase in juvenile drug arrests might be related to what’s going on with adults, who are being arrested on drug crimes at an alarming rate in South Dakota. “It sure makes sense to me that if you have more drug use at home, you’ll have more kids exposed to it,” said Greg Sattizahn.

In 2018, 17 South Dakota jurisdictions failed to report a full year’s worth of data, said Bormann.

Despite concerns over the rankings, state data shows that the number of juveniles arrested for drug offenses has increased dramatically since 2008 and has remained at an elevated level since.

Prior to 2015, South Dakota had one of the highest rates of juvenile incarceration in the country. The statistics was one driving force behind efforts by then-Gov. Dennis Daugaard to sign what was known as the Juvenile Justice Public Safety Improvement Act in March of that year.

The law created or boosted funding for a suite of new services and diversion programs designed to fight addiction and alter behavior instead of locking juveniles up, Sattizahn said. The goal behind many of the reforms is to keep youths out of the justice system altogether, he said.

“If we have too heavy a hand … you can push them further into the criminal justice system,” Sattizahn said.

So far, the reform effort has had some success. The number of youths placed into the custody of the Department of Corrections for the first time fell by 63 percent between 2014 and 2018, according to the Juvenile Justice Oversight Committee 2018 annual report.

In another sign of success, the number of youths arrested for crimes not related to drugs has declined. In 2012, the state reported 6,617 arrests of juveniles for all crimes other than drug use, possession or distribution. In 2018, South Dakota reported 5,026 non-drug juvenile arrests, a 24 percent decline over that period.

The state’s law enforcement community is pegging the rise in juvenile drug arrests at least partially on the Juvenile Justice Public Safety Improvement Act, Bormann said. The argument is that because youths who were arrested used to be placed in treatment or a detention center, but are now released into the community, that they have more opportunities to reoffend.

“One of the things you will hear from prosecutors and law enforcement is, it tends to create a lot of repeat offenders,” Bormann said.

Local law enforcement agencies, however, aren’t required to report how many times they arrest the same person for the same crime. As a result, there isn’t a good way for state officials to track the number of repeat arrests.

(Ed. Note — Part II of this story will run in Friday’s Capital Journal)

Drinking water treatment plant project moves forward

The Pierre City Commission, during its July 9 meeting, unanimously approved a company combination to work on the city’s new drinking water treatment plant project.

Requests for qualifications were announced back in late April. Three proposals were received by the deadline of mid-June. Interviews were held by the city on July 1.

“Projects like this are not done very often,” said Gidget Palmer, with the city of Pierre’s engineering/planning. “PKG Contracting, based out of Fargo, North Dakota, has familiarity with such projects. Scull Construction Service, based out of Rapid City, has familiarity with South Dakota laws, rules, and regulations. They will work together, as such expertise allows in the partnership.”

Palmer added that two out-of-area companies teaming together in a Construction Manager at Risk capacity should not necessarily leave local businesses out of the project. “Once we get PKG Contracting and Scull Construction Service on board, we hope to end up with a lot of local involvement.” Though nothing is guaranteed on what companies will get the contracts, there may be around 50 sub-contractor packages involved in the project.

The city has received a $36.85 million loan to help pay for the construction of the water treatment plant, as well as its operation and maintenance. It will be paid back by city water customers. The loan comes through the state Board of Water and Natural Resources. The grants and loans awarded by the board are administered through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

According to city-supplied information, Pierre’s water is currently gotten from a series of wells throughout the city. Water is treated at the wellhead and pumped to reservoir storage units for further distribution. The city’s water department pumps and treats up to 5.5 million gallons of water each day.

Though the city of Pierre’s current water supply meets all federal and state safe drinking water standards, a community survey resulted in the majority of respondents believing the city should construct a water treatment facility to combat the high mineral content found in Pierre’s current water supply. AE2S, an engineering consulting firm, recommended a more than $37 million water treatment plant just south of the Missouri River highway bridge. A public vote in June 2018 passed with 73% in favor of the new facility.

It has been estimated that, with a new water treatment plant, residential users would pay $0.0023 more per gallon. The monthly increase depends on the amount of water used by the customer. Estimates show an average of $1 a day to a typical residential municipal water account. The rate increase would be used to pay back a 30-year loan used to build the facility, as well as ongoing maintenance and operation costs. Water rates include a base charge and a volumetric charge (charge per unit of water used). Based on a customer using 6,000 gallons per month, the new single family monthly cost would be approximately $51 per month. For the same volume of water used, Mid-Dakota’s (competitor water source) residential cost (2018) would be approximately $69 per month.

According to Brooke Bohnenkamp with the city of Pierre, some of the next items for the city commission will be addressed at the July 16 meeting.

Negotiations for the Drinking Water Treatment Facility Construction Manager at Risk recommendation (or maybe during some other future meeting)

E911 Surcharge Ordinance update

Merchant Security Ordinance update

Water Rate Ordinance update

Public Utilities Commission approves construction permit for Triple H Wind project

The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission approved a construction permit for the Triple H Wind project, a wind energy facility capable of generating up to 250.54 megawatts of energy in Hyde County. The action came July 9 at the PUC’s regular meeting in Pierre.

The proposed project, approximately 3.2 miles southwest of Highmore, will include up to 92 wind turbines spread over a 27,247.5-acre area. The project footprint will also include access roads, underground collector lines and fiber-optic cable, a collection substation, one permanent meteorological tower, a 345-kV interconnection switching station, a sonic detection and ranging unit, and an operations and maintenance facility.

Triple H has entered into two power purchase agreements. Upon completion of the wind facility, it will supply Walmart with 150 megawatts of energy and 48 megawatts will be sold to a confidential institutional buyer. The remaining 52 megawatts will be sold on a merchant basis. The company estimates the project will cost approximately $300 million to build and expects to complete construction in 2020.

A settlement agreement presented by Triple H and PUC staff was previously accepted by the commission in May. Issues not addressed in the settlement – funding for decommissioning of the project, risk associated with ice throw and risk to whooping cranes – were presented at an evidentiary hearing in late June. The commission’s action this week was to rule on those issues and determine if a permit should be granted.

During the construction and operation of the project, Triple H must adhere to 41 conditions specified by the commission. Shadow flicker, sound level, land restoration after construction, potential impacts to whooping cranes and ice throw are among the condition details. Additionally, the commission voted to require the establishment of an escrow account specifically designated for the future decommissioning of the project.

At Triple H’s request, the commission also considered changing the requirements to provide notice to landowners and the commission prior to construction, and allow the applicant to begin construction on Aug. 1, 2019. After discussion, commissioners voted to maintain the standard 14-day requirement for landowners and 30-day requirement for the commission.

Of the company’s request, PUC Chairman Gary Hanson stated, “From my standpoint, I like to honor precedents and I prefer consistency. We know that there are timelines that work for us and I dislike experimenting with them. I understand the need to complete the project during one construction season, but we also need to ensure we provide proper notice to landowners and allow adequate time for citizens and communities to prepare.”

Triple H filed its application with the PUC on Feb. 6, 2019. At the time the application was filed, state law required the commission to make a decision within six months of receiving a wind energy facility application. A public input hearing was held in Highmore in March. No one sought intervention.

“The public input meeting for this particular wind farm was unlike most that we go to,” said PUC Vice Chairman Chris Nelson, on the community participation at the input hearing. “It was clear that the applicant had done the legwork with folks in the area, when they came out to support the project. That goes a long way toward telling us that things have been taken care of.”

“The applicant and the Highmore community have really done a great job to make this a win-win situation for everyone in that community,” said Commissioner Kristie Fiegen. “I greatly appreciate staff and the applicant working together to ensure that we allow for the project, but also provide protection for our citizens.”

PUC gives Crowned Ridge Wind Farm permit to construct

On Tuesday, July 9, the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission approved a permit, with conditions, giving the go-ahead for the construction of the Crowned Ridge Wind Farm in northeastern South Dakota.

Commission members Gary Hanson, Chris Nelson and Kristie Fiegen made their decision at the regular PUC meeting in Pierre.

The Crowned Ridge Wind Farm will cover 53,186 acres in Grant and Codington counties. It will be capable of producing as much as 300 megawatts of energy from up to 130 wind turbines.

The wind farm is owned by Crowned Ridge Wind LLC, a wholly-owned indirect subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources LLC.

Northern States Power Co., doing business as Xcel Energy, will purchase the energy produced by the wind farm.

Crowned Ridge Wind filed its application with the PUC on Jan. 30, 2019, launching a statutory six-month review period that included a public input hearing in Waverly in March and an evidentiary hearing in Pierre in June.

The 2019 legislature revised the law, extending the review period to nine months for wind energy permit applications filed with the commission after July 1, 2019.

Intervenors participating in the Crowned Ridge Wind docket included Allen Robish and Amber Christenson of Strandburg; Kristi Mogen of Twin Brooks; and Patrick and Melissa Lynch of Watertown.

Among the 46 conditions the PUC placed on the permit are those that address sound levels and shadow flicker experienced by nearby residences, the detection of ice on turbine blades, monitoring of grouse leks within the wind farm area once construction is complete, and funding for the removal of the facilities, known as decommissioning.

“I truly believe that through the conditions we specified today, we came up with a good product,” stated PUC Chairman Hanson. “We go through this process following the evidence that has been presented and making certain we follow the law. We have to base our decision on evidence, not our feelings,” he said.

“It’s been a grind to get to where we are today,” noted PUC Vice Chairman Nelson. “Having considered all the evidence presented during this process, I believe the applicant has met the burden required in state law to obtain a permit. The operational aspects of this project have to meet the requirements that the PUC and the counties have established,” Nelson said.

Commissioner Fiegen spoke about the commission’s final decision, stating, “Today we have addressed a lot of concerns brought to our attention during the evidentiary hearing and through post-hearing briefs. What we have landed on is a combination that works for the residents of the area, for the applicant and for the state.”

Crowned Ridge Wind estimates the wind farm will cost $400 million and expects it to be completed by 2020. This wind farm is separate from the Crowned Ridge II wind farm for which an application is expected to be filed with the PUC. The commission will have nine months to process that application, pursuant to the new law, which took effect July 1.

The Crowned Ridge Wind Farm docket can be viewed on the PUC’s website at www.puc.sd.gov, Commission Actions, Electric Dockets, 2019 Electric Dockets, EL19-003 – In the Matter of the Application by Crowned Ridge Wind, LLC for a Permit of a Wind Energy Facility in Grant and Codington Counties.

Pavement rehabilitation to begin on Highways 83 and 212

The South Dakota Department of Transportation says work on Highways 83 and 212 north will begin July 30, from the Blunt junction to Gettysburg.

The work includes joint spall repair, full and partial panel replacement, and sealing joints and random cracks.

During all operations, traffic will be carried through the work zones with the use of flaggers, pilot cars, traffic signals, stop signs and lane closures as needed.

The contractor will be working in multiple areas of the project simultaneously. The work zones will reduce the overall road width at various locations and these areas will move frequently as sections are completed. Over width loads will still be able to maneuver the roadway with the help of the gravel shoulder.

Motorists can expect multiple lane closures and should be prepared for suddenly slowing, merging and stopped traffic, as well as construction workers and equipment adjacent to the driving lane.

This project has a substantial completion date of Oct. 31, 2019, for the area of Highway 83 from the Blunt junction to the town of Onida. The overall completion date is June 26, 2020.

The prime contractor on this $2.7 million project is Forby Contracting, Inc. from Hinckley, Minnesota.

For complete road construction information, visit www.safetravelusa.com or dial 511.

Civil Air Patrol staying busy

The Civil Air Patrol — South Dakota Wing is growing.

The Wing has activated a new unit, the Mitchell Flight based in Mitchell. According to Col. David Small, commander of the S.D. Wing of CAP, this brings the number of CAP units in South Dakota to nine.

In other updates, on June 1 more than 40 CAP volunteers from across the state gathered at the Black Hills Airport to hone their skills as aviators and first responders. Among the activities were search and rescue (SAR) training for aircrews and ground teams, and orientation flights for cadets.

The SAR training involved air crews searching for electronic targets similar to the emergency radio beacons activated when an airplane crashes. They then directed teams on the ground to the notional crash sites in order to practice securing the scene and searching for survivors. Three CAP aircraft were put to use throughout the event.

In addition, though not part of the SAR training, the Wing conducted hands-on training with small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS).

Commonly called drones, these aircraft can be used to rapidly search an area; for example, they can be operated by ground teams to quickly locate lost hikers or hunters.

Col. Mike Beason has been approved as a sUAS mission pilot, instructor pilot, and check pilot. He joins Lt. Col. Craig Goodrich as a mission pilot, and Col. David Small as a sUAS mission/instructor/check pilot. The SD CAP would like to have at least eight sUAS mission pilots in the wing by the end of this year.