SB35 passes the South Dakota Senate

PIERRE, S.D. (SDBA) — The Sanford Underground Research Facility in the Black Hills would receive $13 million in state money to plan for expansion.

The Joint Appropriations Committee passed SB 35 this morning (Wednesday).

According to Mike Headley, the executive director of the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority, the money is needed to ensure the old Homestake Mine is competitive with China, Canada, and Italy for neutrino and other theoretical research.

“We’ve lost projects to Canada as we didn’t have space,” Headley said.

The $13 million would go toward phase one planning and tunneling for additional research rooms.

Phase two is estimated to cost $100 million, which Headley said would come from private donations.

Another $60 million is needed for “outfitting” the new rooms for experiments, i.e., electricity, internet, HVAC, and plumbing.

Headley says they expect $500 million to come after that in new experiments.

He also said this was the only time the SDSTB would come to the legislature asking for funds.

Some legislators were skeptical, and the Noem administration opposed the bill.

Jim Terwilliger, the Bureau of Finance and Management Commissioner, said Gov. Kristi Noem supports SURF but has concerns.

“There are unanswered questions about how much and how long South Dakota will need to fund” the facility, Commissioner Terwilliger said.

He added there were no guarantees about private or federal money coming to fruition.

Headley said that philanthropist T. Denny Sanford indicated more financial support for the facility, but it was not in writing.

He also said he had received a letter from Republican U.S. Senators John Thune and Mike Rounds that they would obtain federal support.

Headley said it was imperative to act now as a contractor has already mobilized their machinery in the deep mine.

He says it would save $15 million not to remobilize them; plus, the South Dakota facility now has international competition.

Republican Rep. Chris Karr from Sioux Falls asked Headley what would happen if South Dakota appropriates the $13 million, but the project cannot obtain additional funds for expansion.

Headley answered that if the state didn’t provide the $13 million now, there would be significant problems getting to the project’s next phase.

Rep. Karr noted in committee discussion, “We’re not here to kill bad bills. We’re here to prioritize good bills. We have some things in the state that we have to take care of.”

He said these included new correctional facilities, which the committee passed following SB 35.

The SURF funding measure passed the committee on a 15 to 3 vote.

It now heads to the House for consideration.