- Associated Press - Thursday, April 14, 2016

Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, April 7, 2016

It is not easy or comfortable sitting at the point where state government and commerce intersect in South Dakota, which is where Pennington County commissioners have found themselves since Croell Redi-Mix sought to expand its mining operation along Highway 16.

On Wednesday, April 6, and after weeks of discussion and study, commissioners voted 4-1 to deny the mining company’s plans to expand the gravel pit just a few miles north of Mount Rushmore, otherwise known as the Shrine of Democracy, a monumental reminder that the public’s voice counts.

Croell was seeking a construction permit to expand its quarry to 164 acres in an area zoned general-agricultural. In making the request, Croell pointed out that the Department of Energy and Natural Resources had already issued the company a mining permit, although no public hearing was held prior to the state’s decision.

After neighbors of the gravel pit learned Croell’s construction permit request was on a Planning Commission meeting agenda, they turned out in droves to oppose the expansion, citing traffic, dust and noise concerns. The request was approved by the planning commission before it was considered by county commissioners, which held public hearings on the matter.

It was on Wednesday, April 6, when the commission and the estimated 100 people at the meeting learned exactly how lax state oversight of the quarry has been. DENR staffers at the meeting acknowledged they had only inspected the site four or five times in 15 years and that another mine operator on the site had been operating without a state storm water permit for years.

In addition, the DENR staffers were unable to explain how future reclamation efforts at the site would be managed by their office when asked by the county commission.

Given the state’s traditional hands-off approach to regulating mining that was on full display at the meeting, it was refreshing to see that four of the five county commissioners - only Chairman Lyndell Petersen voted for the permit - refused to rubber-stamp a state’s agency administrative approval of the expansion.

The county commission also voted to impose a moratorium on the issuance of mining permits for up to six months so county zoning ordinances can be reviewed and perhaps improved to add clarity for all parties, which is the right action to take in the wake of this debate.

In this case, the county commission rejected the expansion on the grounds that it was not compatible with general-agriculture zoning, which seems reasonable when you consider that project has nothing to do with agriculture.

More importantly, however, county commissioners listened to their constituents and the public safety officials who raised legitimate concerns about the impact of the additional large truck traffic and dust on a highway that is used by millions of tourists throughout the year.

While we expect private companies to fight for their property rights, we also expect our elected officials to determine what is in the best interests of the residents and those visitors who pump millions of dollars into our tourism industry. And if the state won’t do it, then it is appropriate for the county to accept that responsibility.


The Daily Republic, Mitchell, April 12, 2016

Spring means it’s time to get those lawns glowing again, but using fertilizer for Lake Mitchell homeowners may mean a different green substance sprouting.

Lake Mitchell’s algae problems have been well documented. But the exact cause, or causes, has yet to be determined.

Among the many alleged culprits, one accusation is that Mitchell residents who live alongside our lake are using too much or harmful fertilizer for their lawns.

And, with spring here, we know now’s the time for those who live adjacent to the lake to make their yards lush for the summer.

That’s perfectly understandable. Part of being a homeowner is maintaining your property, both the structure and the lawn. And a homeowner should be able to do as they wish on their property, of course, within the city’s laws.

But because those property owners use the lake as much or even more than other Mitchell residents, we hope they’re considering zero phosphorus fertilizers. Lake Mitchell has high phosphorus levels, according to past studies done at the lake.

Whether those high phosphorus levels are because of runoff from Firesteel Creek - which flows into Lake Mitchell - or fertilizers used by property owners, a combination of the two, or some other culprit, what harm is there in using zero phosphorus fertilizer?

Lake Mitchell is a great draw for our community, and we think it’s wonderful that so much time and effort is being invested into fixing the problems with the lake.

Because of that, the people who own property around the lake should take pride in its quality and future.

Creating new laws and ordinances isn’t always a perfect solution, so we think the Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee should first emphasize the importance of using zero phosphorus fertilizers to property owners near the lake.

These committee members should be willing to knock on doors and encourage property owners to use a different method to fertilize their lawns. And, if zero phosphorus fertilizer is impossible to find in Mitchell, the committee needs to encourage local businesses to carry it.

Having a high-quality, clean lake is at stake here. Pointing fingers and blaming will not address what’s certainly a problem.

To take a step toward progress, we hope the lake’s advisory committee can educate property owners in using zero phosphorus fertilizer, and we hope those who live on the lake will change their methods to get those lawns glowing again.


Aberdeen American News, Aberdeen, April 13, 2016

Two volunteer workers who made racist comments captured on video during a recent youth wrestling tournament in Aberdeen have been banned from working future events.

That was the right call.

As hard as it can be to find people willing to donate weekends to assist at sporting and other events, there’s no place for helpers who make mean, ignorant comments while they’re supposed to be helping kids - Native American or any other race.

The racially insensitive comments were made by two men who referred to “the rez.” One man could be heard saying, “I pay for it anyways. It’s my f–– tax money,” and “It’s all government money anyway.”

There were also comments about food cards, American Indian names and the ponytail of 6-year-old wrestler Nokosi Ringing Shield of Sioux Falls. His family heard the comments while watching recordings of his matches after the tournament, then reported them.

The South Dakota Wrestling Coaches Association Youth State Tournament was April 2 and 3 at the Northern State University Barnett Center. The tourney was an Amateur Athletic Union event. While the two men were not doing play-by-play or commentary, the video picked up their conversations during a series of matches at the tournament.

In addition to being banned from working future events, the men will have to take cultural awareness classes with which Northern’s Native American Student Association will be involved. That’s another proper step.

Shawnee Edge, president of the Native American Student Association, said it best: “It is truly unfortunate that the uneducated remarks of a few individuals had to overshadow the accomplishments of our children and the community during a wrestling event. What began as disparaging remarks about the culture of a child progressed into the discrimination against an entire culture in general.”

Instead of young Nokosi remembering his accomplishments at the tournament, he’ll probably remember the controversy.

Instead of his family remembering the competition and community as a positive experience, they’ll remember the hurtful words.

We don’t believe the volunteers’ remarks are reflective of Aberdeen, Northern, the wrestling community or the AAU. But we also know they’re not unique to the men who made them. And that’s profoundly sad.

Nokosi’s parents have said they have been pleased with the response by Rocky Burkett, Northern’s wrestling coach, who was responsive and apologetic. They’re less happy with their interactions with Bob Johnson, national chairman of the AAU and head of the South Dakota Wrestling Coaches Association.

We don’t pretend to speak on behalf of the Ringing Shields, but we are pleased the matter was not left unaddressed. The two men won’t be working any more AAU tournaments. That means two fewer people to undercut the accomplishments of young athletes and demean an entire cultural community.

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