This week, Mary Duvall, Mike Weisgram and I heard from Vietnam Era veterans about the importance of the fountain and memorials at Capitol Lake. I heard about their efforts to clean up and maintain the Lake and Fountain area. I heard about spreading ashes of a fellow service member.

The stories I heard, and the conviction behind them, cemented in my mind that we need to fix our famous fountain and we need to fix it now.

As we wrote about in November, our Flaming Fountain needs fixing. In 2019, a study was conducted by engineers from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology. That study determined the methane gas in the water feeding the flaming fountain is no longer capable of sustaining a consistent, permanent flame. Most crucially, the study raised the concern of corrosion and a sinkhole, wherein the Fountain could collapse on itself.

The report finished with this line: “it is critical that securing the Flaming Fountain be done as soon as possible.”

We couldn’t agree more.

We don’t want to find out whether the corrosion problem will rear its head in 20 months or 20 years. Fortunately, we have a strong ally in Governor Noem. The Governor’s budget proposed $3.5 million dollars to stabilize and replace the fountain feeding Capitol Lake.

HB1013 appropriates the funds, including $3M in federal funds, to cap the current well and bring about a plan to stabilize and improve the fountain for years to come. Importantly, the fountain project is an example of a true one-time expenditure, custom made for using one-time dollars. We can invest one-time dollars on infrastructure to provide a lasting benefit.

As the specific plans for replacing the fountain are developed, I believe it is critical that veterans, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and first responders have a seat at the table. The memorials are meaningful for all South Dakotans, but especially for those who are honored.

Veterans groups, legislators, and the Noem Administration have explored the possibility of adding a Lakota Code Talker Memorial and a War on Terror Memorial near the fountain in the coming years. Both are worthy and important additions. I can’t wait to see them developed. But before those memorials can move forward, the fountain situation needs to be addressed.

Now is the time to fix our famous fountain and HB1013 is the key legislation to do it. If you have thoughts or want to join the effort, please reach out. Important projects are better done together. My email address is Will.Mortenson@sdlegislature.gov.

Mary, Mike, and I are planning to work with veterans and the Noem Administration to fix the fountain for decades to come. We hope you’ll join us.



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