Joint Use Wastewater Treatment Plant Supports Ellsworth AFB

A $23 million wastewater treatment plant financed by the state is up and running in west central South Dakota and helping sustain growth at Ellsworth Air Force Base.

The plant, which opened last month, is the product of a collaboration among the South Dakota Ellsworth Development Authority, the city of Box Elder and Ellsworth. Both the base and Box Elder needed additional wastewater treatment capacity, a requirement which the development authority was uniquely positioned to address.

The authority financed the project through a revolving loan program offered by the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The loan will be paid back through usage fees paid by Ellsworth and Box Elder. The installation’s share of the cost is a little higher than Box Elder’s because of the need to build a 5-mile sewer line from the base to the treatment plant.

The Air Force is saving an estimated $8 million by foregoing the construction of a plant solely for its use, Scott Landguth, the authority’s executive director, told 360. The base’s operating costs for wastewater treatment also are lower because it is sharing them with the city.

The state created the authority in 2009 to support Ellsworth by promoting economic development, limiting incompatible development and preparing for mission growth.

The treatment plant project was conceived before the Air Force launched its Community Partnership Program to encourage installations to enter into agreements with local governments to provide, receive or share support services for most municipal functions. The concept is the same, though, Landguth said.

The Community Partnership Program is intended to take advantage of section 331, a new authority allowing installations to enter into intergovernmental support agreements with host communities.

“With the Department of Defense continuing to face budgetary issues and a potential new round of BRAC in 2017, the value which the Ellsworth Development Authority has created through partnerships and cost savings is well worth celebrating,” South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) wrote in a column that ran in local papers earlier this month.

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