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Small Community Planning Grants – A Key Resource for South Dakota Communities

June 14, 2017

By Dave Burwitz, PE, LEED AP – Senior Associate & Sioux Falls Office Manager

Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Needs are Universal – but Funding can be a Challenge for Small Communities

Clean, safe drinking water and the collection and disposal of wastewater are essential infrastructure requirements for any community, from the smallest town to the largest city. The effects of lead in the drinking water in Flint, Michigan, heightened awareness of this critical infrastructure nationwide last summer. While we haven’t seen such dramatic problems in South Dakota, the need for effective and efficient water and wastewater infrastructure is just as important there as anywhere else in the country.

Paying for water and wastewater infrastructure can be challenging, especially for small communities with limited populations – there simply aren’t enough people to split the user costs without feeling the financial strain. Fortunately, South Dakota has a “trust fund” set up specifically for funding water and wastewater improvement projects for municipalities.

The Small Community Planning Grant Program Can Help

The South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources (SDDENR) has a program to encourage water and wastewater infrastructure planning. This Small Community Planning Grant program has funds for small communities to hire a professional engineer to prepare an engineering report listing cost estimates and priorities.

The grant is available for communities with a population less than 2,500. Of the 384 cities in South Dakota, fewer than 35 boast populations above that threshold. This grant program is there to help the vast majority of communities in the state implement their critical water and wastewater improvements.

How the Process Works

The project sponsor must be a governmental agency – a county, municipality, township, or special district – with the ability and authority to construct water and wastewater projects. Grants are available on a first-come, first-served basis and applications are accepted year-round.

Grant applications can be downloaded from the SDDENR website. Returned applications are reviewed by SDDENR staff for completeness and applicants are asked to correct any irregularities noted in the review process. Small Community Planning Grants are awarded on a quarterly basis.

Upon completion of the engineering report noted above, a community will be reimbursed 80% of the cost of the engineering report. Maximum reimbursement for a water study is $8,000 and maximum reimbursement for a wastewater study is $10,000. An additional reimbursement of up to $1,600 can be received for any community conducting a utility rate analysis using the Show-Me Ratemaker process.

The engineering report must contain the information outlined in the Small Community Planning Grant application to be considered complete. This report must be prepared by a professional engineer licensed in South Dakota.

Clark Engineering’s Experience Helping Clients Obtain this Grant Funding

Clark Engineering staff and our engineering reports developed through the Small Community Planning grant program have helped our clients in Colman and Irene, South Dakota receive millions of dollars in grants and low interest loans for their water and wastewater infrastructure improvement projects.