Feds OK doubling of SD polygamist sect's water permits

Associated Press/June 26, 2015

Rapid City -- The National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service have dropped their opposition to a religious group's request to double the amount of water it can use at its remote Black Hills compound.

The two agencies earlier this month came to an agreement with the compound under which they withdraw opposition in exchange for terms and conditions such as reports on water usage, the Rapid City Journal  reported.

The compound still faces other opposition to its request to the state to withdraw more water from the Madison aquifer, and it remains subject to a hearing next month.

The government's decision to withdraw opposition may have stemmed from the compound's earlier reduction of its water-use request.

In the fall, the compound originally requested to withdraw up to 300 gallons per minute, but it lowered its request this spring to no more than 200 gallons per minute.

Members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints live on the 140-acre compound in rural Custer County. The sect formally was a part of the Mormon religion and is known for practicing polygamy.

Seth Jeffs, brother of imprisoned polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs and water operator of the compound, says the group needs to draw more water from the aquifer for orchards, gardens and animals. He has declined to comment on how many people live at the compound, but state regulators report that the compound's water system is capable of serving up to 126 people.

Some opponents think the water request might signal that the compound plans to expand.

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