The state Senate passed a bill Monday to allow the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority to take underground property for use in a national underground science lab.
SB61, which passed 26-9, gives the authority the power to use eminent domain to obtain property 100 feet or more below the surface for use as a science laboratory. SB61 is part of the state's ongoing efforts to put a cutting-edge science lab in the defunct Homestake gold mine in Lead.
Gov. Mike Rounds has advocated for the bill, saying it might be needed in the event a property owner tries to block the authority from acquiring property. The mine's owner, Barrick Gold Corp. of Canada, has agreed in principle to donate much of the underground mine for use as a lab. However, Barrick's subsurface rights are mineral rights.
"Questions have been raised about the ultimate grant of property rights from the Homestake/Barrick folks. The rights they have to the subsurface are for minerals and the extraction of minerals," Senate Majority Leader Eric Bogue, R-Faith, said. "This gives the authority very limited authority to use eminent domain to take the subsurface property rights in the furtherance of its public purpose."
Sen. Ken McNenny, R-Sturgis, voted against SB61. He said he supports the lab but called the granting of eminent domain authority premature.
"I'm concerned that perhaps we're acting a little bit hastily," McNenny said. "Using eminent domain to acquire underground rights is unusual to say the least."
McNenny said he would prefer to wait to grant the eminent domain authority until South Dakota is chosen as home for a new underground lab.
Last week, the Senate passed a bill that would allow the Science and Technology Authority to invest its funds through the South Dakota Investment Council.
Both bills now move to the House for consideration.
Rapid City Journal: www.rapidcityjournal.com
For more information, contact Defenders of the Black Hills: AveleenaCFeywine@st.bhsu.edu