Kristi Noem

Kristi Noem


Final WOTUS Rule Represents One of the Largest Federal Land Grabs in History, Says Noem


Representative Kristi Noem today expressed deep disappointment with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) ruling.  The ruling could greatly expand the federal government’s control over small and seasonal bodies of water throughout South Dakota and the country.  Click here to view a map of how extensive the control could be in South Dakota.

“Today’s announcement represents one of the largest federal land grabs in United States history,” said Noem.  “Small ditches that flow through our backyards, prairie potholes, and streams that only run during heavy rains could now be subject to Clean Water Act regulations, meaning everyday tasks like spraying your lawn for mosquitos or your crops for disease could potentially require new federal permits.  And if the landowner falls out of compliance, penalties could cost more than $30,000 per day.  Despite significant public outcry, the administration is trying to jam this massive expansion of federal power through, further eroding private property rights.  They must reverse course.”

Earlier this month, Rep. Noem helped the U.S. House of Representatives pass the bipartisan H.R. 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act of 2015, which would send the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers back to the drawing board on the WOTUS rule. 

“This isn’t the end of the road,” continued Noem.  “The House has already passed bipartisan legislation that would ditch this rule and send the EPA back to the drawing board.  I strongly urge the Senate to move quickly and pass similar legislation as well.”

Noem has also called on the EPA to define regulated navigable waters on a map after an alarming graphic was released that has raised questions about how extensive the EPA’s regulatory authority could become.  Read more and view the graphic here.

Additionally, in May 2014, Rep. Noem joined 231 Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle on a letter urging the EPA and the Secretary of the Army to withdraw the proposed rule. 

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Weekly Column: Coming Together to Fight Trafficking


In February 2013, South Dakota law enforcement  placed undercover ads on the webpage targeting folks in the Watertown area.  They weren’t pretending to sell illegal drugs; they were pretending to sell people – young girls to be specific.  Over the course of two days, more than 100 individuals responded to the ad – many of whom were hoping to buy these young women for sex.  Similar operations were conducted in Rapid City and during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and all had similar results.

Many times, when folks think of sex trafficking, they picture scenes from urban areas or in foreign countries.  But the reality is it’s happening here.  Young girls – often being recruited between 12 and 14 years old – are bought and sold for sex in small towns and larger communities.  They’re being forced to have sex upwards of 50 times per day, according to the Polaris Project – a leader in the movement to end trafficking.  And their pimps are working to get them hooked on drugs and alcohol, only deepening the young woman’s dependence on the trafficker.

In some cases, trafficking victims are brought through South Dakota from bigger cities and sent to North Dakota’s oil fields.  In other cases, they’re being recruited at local schools, online, or in Indian Country to be sold at large events, like the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.  In many – if not most – cases, they are being recruited in South Dakota and sold in South Dakota.  It has to stop.

For the last few years, I’ve been working with shelters and advocates in South Dakota who have helped victims escape and survivors heal.  With their experiences and needs in mind, I was able to draft legislation – while also helping move forward additional bills others had written – that aim to better combat this criminal industry.  On May 19, we earned a significant victory.  The broadly bipartisan Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, S.178, passed the U.S. House of Representatives, meaning the bill is now headed straight to the President’s desk.

I was privileged to have language I wrote included in this larger package.   My portion of the legislation accomplishes three things.  First, it improves some existing federal grants to ensure they support shelters wanting to provide a place for trafficking survivors.  Today, there are just 200 beds available in the country for underage victims, so this is an important expansion. My language also launches a review that will look into federal and state trafficking prevention activities to help identify and develop the best prevention practices. Finally, it requires an inventory of existing federal anti-trafficking efforts to ensure that the money we’re spending is working for victims.

In addition to the portion that I wrote, S.178 aims to stop websites, like, that are known to facilitate the buying and selling of our children for sex.  It establishes grant programs to help teach medical professionals how to identify victims of trafficking, as they are often one of the first lines of defense when it comes to identifying a trafficking victim.  And it helps improve law enforcement task forces to combat this terrible crime.  All in all, it amounts to one of the largest anti-trafficking packages passed in nearly a decade.

There is still more to do.  Building awareness remains a huge challenge, but it’s a challenge each of you can help us overcome. I encourage you to learn more about the red flags so you can identify them if someone you know is at risk.  The Polaris Project website, found at, is one resource.

Thank you to everyone who has engaged in ending trafficking in South Dakota.  The work you do to eliminate its presence in our community and heal survivors is admirable and vital.

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Noem introduces bill to keep felons out of Social Security


Reps. Kristi Noem (SD-At Large) and Sam Johnson (TX-3) today introduced H.R. 2504, the Control Unlawful Fugitive Felon Act of 2015 (CUFF Act), which would prohibit wanted felons from receiving Social Security disability or retirement payments. If passed, the legislation is expected to save taxpayers as much as $4.8 billion over 10 years, according to preliminary Congressional Budget Office estimates.

“It’s almost unbelievable that a wanted felon can evade prosecution for months or even years, but somehow still receive checks from the government every 30 days or so,” said Noem.  “I am proud to join Chairman Johnson in introducing legislation that would finally end this practice.  Hardworking taxpayers should never be asked to make disability or retirement payments to folks who are running from the law.  It has to stop now.”

The CUFF Act discontinues benefits for those who are the subject of an arrest warrant.  The legislation only applies to felony charges, or a crime carrying a minimum term of one or more years in prison.  Benefits can be restored once the individual resolves any outstanding issues.

“Individuals running from the law or violating their parole or probation shouldn’t be supported with taxpayer dollars,” said Johnson, who serves as Chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security.  “That’s why I’m pleased to join Congresswoman Noem in reintroducing this commonsense Law and Order bill.  Not only would it help law enforcement, but it is the right thing to do on behalf of hardworking American taxpayers!”

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Noem, Johnson Aim to Prevent Wanted Felons From Receiving Taxpayer-Funded Benefits


Reps. Kristi Noem (SD-At Large) and Sam Johnson (TX-3) today introduced H.R. 2504, the Control Unlawful Fugitive Felon Act of 2015 (CUFF Act), which would prohibit wanted felons from receiving Social Security disability or retirement payments. If passed, the legislation is expected to save taxpayers as much as $4.8 billion over 10 years, according to preliminary Congressional Budget Office estimates.

“It’s almost unbelievable that a wanted felon can evade prosecution for months or even years, but somehow still receive checks from the government every 30 days or so,” said Noem.  “I am proud to join Chairman Johnson in introducing legislation that would finally end this practice.  Hardworking taxpayers should never be asked to make disability or retirement payments to folks who are running from the law.  It has to stop now.”

The CUFF Act discontinues benefits for those who are the subject of an arrest warrant.  The legislation only applies to felony charges, or a crime carrying a minimum term of one or more years in prison.  Benefits can be restored once the individual resolves any outstanding issues.

“Individuals running from the law or violating their parole or probation shouldn’t be supported with taxpayer dollars,” said Johnson, who serves as Chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security.  “That’s why I’m pleased to join Congresswoman Noem in reintroducing this commonsense Law and Order bill.  Not only would it help law enforcement, but it is the right thing to do on behalf of hardworking American taxpayers!”

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Noem Speaks on Passage of Anti-Trafficking Legislation Now Headed to President


The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act and the legislation now heads to the President. The anti-trafficking bill includes provisions authored by Congresswoman Kristi Noem.  Noem’s office says the act represents one of the largest anti-trafficking measures passed through Congress in a decade.  The Representative says the legislation has been in the works for the past few years.

Noem’s provisions in the bill to combat human trafficking include ensuring Department of Justice grant money is available to support shelters for trafficking victims and a review into federal and state trafficking prevention activities.  Noem’s language also requires a check of current federal anti-trafficking efforts to ensure that federal resources are being targeted where needed and that all federal agencies and programs work together.   Noem says she is thrilled her language is included in the final package and hopes the President will give the legislation his support.
Noem says a dozen different House bills were put together to create the act.  In a press release, Noem says many see themselves, their families and their communities removed from human trafficking, however it is occurring across the country–and even in South Dakota.
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Noem's Anti-Trafficking Legislation Heads to the President


Representative Kristi Noem today helped lead the U.S. House of Representatives in passing S.178, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act – a sweeping bipartisan anti-trafficking bill that includes provisions Noem authored. 

“Human trafficking is an issue that many see as removed from themselves, their families and their communities,” said Noem.  “The reality is, however, that trafficking is occurring in our backyards, at schools near our homes, and on websites that our kids frequent.  These words are not intended to cause unnecessary alarm, but to bring into perspective that it isn’t just happening overseas or in communities far away from our own.  It’s happening across this country – even in South Dakota.”

The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act represents one of the largest anti-trafficking measures passed through Congress in a decade.  With final congressional approval from the House, the legislation is now headed to the President’s desk.

“Today, there are only about 200 beds for underage sex trafficking victims in the United States,” said Noem.  “One of the provisions within this bill, which is language I wrote, would ensure shelters can get access to more resources in order to provide safe housing for those trying to escape and recover from trafficking.  Passing this provision and the dozens of others contained in S.178 has given both chambers of Congress the opportunity to stand together in opposition to this kind of modern-day slavery.  I strongly urge President Obama to sign this legislation quickly and take one more step in the journey toward ending trafficking.”

Rep. Noem’s language that was included in S.178 was first introduced as the Human Trafficking, Prevention, Intervention and Recovery Act in 2014.  It passed the U.S. House of Representatives in both 2014 and 2015 and the U.S. Senate in 2015. The Congresswoman’s legislation takes a three-pronged approach in combatting human trafficking:

  • Improves existing Department of Justice grants, ensuring the grants support shelters for survivors.  Currently, there are just 200 beds available in the United States for underage victims.
  • Launches a review by the Interagency Task-Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking that will look into federal and state trafficking prevention activities.  The review will be done in consultation with nongovernmental organizations and will work to identify and develop best practices to prevent trafficking.
  • Requires an inventory of existing federal anti-trafficking efforts by the non-partisan Government Accountability Office to make sure all federal agencies and programs work together and that federal resources are being targeted where needed.


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Rep. Kristi Noem Gives Commencement Speech at Hill City High School Graduation


South Dakota Congresswoman Kristi Noem gives wisdom to high school students Sunday afternoon. Students at Hill City high school walked the stage at Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

Noem giving the commencement speech at the 2015 graduation marking the 94th commecement ceremony. Noem says its her first time speaking at a graduation ceremony at Mount Rushmore “Today I wanted the students to know it’s ok to go and try new things. There’s a lot of opinions in this world that can define them but they have this opportunity to chose their own path and not be afraid of failure. We’re in the Black Hills recognizing a lot of great South Dakotans and students that are going to change this world."

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Noem to Deliver Hill City Commencement Address


On Sunday, May 17, at 10:30 a.m. at the Mount Rushmore Amphitheatre located at the monument, the Hill City High School (HCHS) class of 2015 will gather together with family and teachers to celebrate their years at school and the beginning of the next stage of their lives.

The commencement program will kick off with the “Star-Spangled Banner” performed by Katie Jacobs, Micah Pennel and Michal Wiederhold and the invocation by Pennel. The 2015 program will involve three honored speakers — Salutatorian Caiden Merritt, Valedictorian Allison Henderson and U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem.

The HCHS band will perform most of the musical selections for the program, including standbys like “Pomp and Circumstance” and more unusual pieces such as “Storm Warning.”

Regents Scholars will be introduced by guidance counselor Susan Satter and the HCHS choir will sing the selections “I Shall Not Live in Vain” and “Closer to the Flame.” The 2015 class motto is “Stay Golden.”

After diplomas are awarded, the program will conclude with Jacobs giving the benediction and the class song “Pictures of You” by The Last Goodnight. Read More

Weekly Column: What I Admire in my Daughter


We’ve watched a lot of old family videos these last few weeks as we prepared for Kennedy to graduate.  It’s been a special opportunity to see who she is – who she has always been.  She never seemed to mind her older sister telling her what to do.  She’d let other kids at her birthday parties open her presents and play with the gifts – even if she hadn’t had the chance to yet.  We saw her helping her cousins up when they fell and faithfully answering the questions we asked with the sweetest lisp and a crooked smile. 

I distinctly remember a day when Kennedy was five.  I took her to a friend’s house in rural Raymond to look at a couple horses for her and her older sister Kassidy.  Kass returned home that day with Dunny – and Kenners was left with Loosey.  When we pushed Kennedy up on the horse’s back, her little legs barely hung over Loosey’s sides and even if Kennedy hung off the saddle horn, her feet were still a good two feet from the ground.  But she didn’t seem to mind. 

Kennedy gave Loosey a kick and a cluck, but Loosey just laid down.  I ran over to pull Kennedy off Loosey’s back as she went down and I remember getting this cold feeling in my stomach.  “Oh great,” I thought.  “Now, I have a five-year-old problem horse for my five-year-old little girl.”

Kennedy didn’t hesitate though.  She got right back on the horse, gave her another kick, and off they loped across the arena.

A few years later, Kennedy was riding the horse in a rodeo and a woman came up and asked, “Is that Loosey?”  I said that it was and the woman proceeded to tell me that they had tried Loosey out too, but found her far too ornery.  She spoke about several other families who also gave the horse a chance, but none of them worked out either.  Then, she said, “Well, I guess Loosey found her girl.”  She was right.

The strength and determination Kennedy displayed that first day with Loosey is the way I hope each of my kids approach the challenges they face in life.  Brush yourself off and climb back on.

It’s an attitude we’ve seen reprise many times throughout Kennedy’s life – and something I greatly admire in her.

Kennedy’s athletic career has not been without its own challenges.  Even after breaking her foot and knocking out her front teeth, she has been committed to pursuing her passion for basketball.  Her biggest athletic challenge came last year when she fractured her back during a game. The break was bad enough that it required surgery, four days in the hospital, and several more weeks in a hospital bed in our living room.  She was limited to months of no activity – a hard ask for a girl who rarely stops moving.

By the time her senior basketball season came around, the doctors had cleared her to play – so long as there was limited contact.  I’d wondered if the doctors had ever watched a basketball game. 

There were many times this season where Kennedy had to fight through the pain, but the doctors said she’d be alright so we let her push on.  Then came one of the most exciting days of Kennedy’s high school career – the day she learned the University of Sioux Falls coach was saving a spot on the basketball team for her.  That same patient determination that she had with Loosey all those years ago carried her through the back injury and onto a college team – just like she dreamed of.  It makes a mom proud.

As we prepare for Kennedy to leave for college – and for us to be left alone with Loosey – I can’t help but find a deep love and appreciation for that horse.  After all, it was Loosey who put Kennedy to the test and my little girl showed a level of determination that I’m confident can carry her through anything life throws at her.

Congratulations on your graduation, Kennedy.  Dad and I are so proud of you.

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Noem Announces Winners of Congressional Art Competition


Congresswoman Kristi Noem today announced the 2015 Congressional Art Competition Winner: Gabe May of Harrisburg. May won for his oil and acrylic painting, “Reflection.” May attends Harrisburg High School in Harrisburg, S.D., where his art teacher is Tracy Bird. The artwork will hang in the U.S. Capitol complex, along with the winning artwork from other congressional districts, for the next year.

William Drzycimski of Sioux Falls won second place for his acrylic painting, “Beaver Creek Bridge.” His piece will hang in Rep. Noem’s congressional office in Washington, D.C., for the next year.

“The artistic talents of South Dakota’s young people are truly incredible,” said Rep. Noem. “I want to congratulate Gabe and William for their work and thank them for offering their art to represent South Dakota. I’d also like to thank their teachers, Tracy Bird and Kathleen Drzycimski, for helping enhance these students’ natural abilities. On behalf of South Dakota, I am proud to have these pieces displayed in the U.S. Capitol for all to see.”  

The Congressional Art Competition is organized by Rep. Noem’s office in partnership with the South Dakota Arts Council. The Congressional Art Competition began in 1982 and provides Members of Congress with an opportunity to recognize talent in their home districts. 

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Noem Votes to Send EPA, Army Corps Back to the Drawing Board on WOTUS


Representative Kristi Noem today helped the U.S. House of Representatives pass the bipartisan H.R. 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act of 2015, which would send the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers back to the drawing board on a proposed “waters of the United States” rule.  The proposal of concern would expand the federal government’s control over small and seasonal bodies of water throughout South Dakota.

“It’s time that the EPA and Army Corps ditch this intrusive and unnecessary regulation,” said Rep. Noem.  “The proposed rule, which could become one of the largest land grabs in U.S. history, was built on incomplete scientific data and a flawed economic analysis.  The federal government ought to go back to the drawing board.  After all, the potential federal takeover of many prairie potholes, ditches and streams isn’t an option.”

Throughout the last Congress, Rep. Noem helped lead the U.S. House of Representatives in passing bipartisan legislation to prohibit the EPA and the Army Corps from developing, finalizing, adopting, implementing, applying, administering or enforcing the proposed rule to or any similar rule that would expand the agencies’ jurisdiction over these waters. She also called on the EPA to define regulated navigable waters on a map after an alarming graphic was released that has raised questions about how extensive the EPA’s regulatory authority could become.  Read more and view the graphic here.

In May 2014, Rep. Noem joined 231 Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle on a letter urging the EPA and the Secretary of the Army to withdraw the proposed rule.  She also questioned the USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment at an Agriculture Committee hearing in June 2014. Here, the Congresswoman raised concerns about the lack of clarity the interpretive rule would provide to producers and questioned why the administration is pursuing the rule when so many are opposed to it (watch the exchange here).

After earlier pressure from Noem and others, the U.S. Department of Agriculture did withdraw the “waters of the U.S.” interpretive rule, a portion of the controversial expansion.  But action must still be taken by the EPA and Army Corps to fully eliminate the proposed rule.

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Thune, Noem Tour Delmont Damage


Members of South Dakota's congressional delegation say they will do what they can to get Delmont FEMA assistance.  Senator John Thune and Representative Kristi Noem are taking a closer look at the damage.  They say homeowners need help as soon as possible.  Reality is sinking in for those who call Delmont home.  Shawn Spurrell and his family came home to the wreckage after spending the weekend in Parkston.

"Started getting emails and texts from people here in town that it went through our neighborhood," Spurrell said.

After what happened on Sunday, Monday's big question is what happens next?

"You can have insurance, but it's no substitute and it doesn't replace all the personal items and the memories that were stored in their homes," Thune said.

While they met with residents, Thune and Noem want the families here to know they're not alone.

"For people, our home is where everything is kind of centered around.  It's going to take a while for everybody to rebuild and put it all back together," Thune said.

"Kind of breaks your heart all over again," Noem said.  "You look at these homes on this street, by far the worst I've seen and the church and the fire hall," Rep. Kristi Noem said.

Right now, state leaders are figuring out how much this all will cost, and if it meets the requirements to get federal assistance.

"Those of us that are in D-C will certainly be advocating to get as many federal resources as possible here to the people who truly have lost so much," Noem said.

It will be a long process, because Spurrell says the reality of this is much worse than anything anyone could have imagined.

"It's kind of indescribable.  You know, you figure you knew how you'd react or see the; be emotional.  It's just kind of breathtaking.  You could've been in there," Spurrell said.

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Thune, Noem tour tornado damage


Two members of South Dakota's Congressional Delegation toured tornado damage in Delmont on Monday.

Senator John Thune (R) says he was pretty shocked by the amount of damage. He says it's just amazing that no one was killed.

Representative Kristi Noem (R) says she talked to a woman who crouched unde the wooden stairs in her basement as the tornado destroyed her home. Battered and bruised, she was rescued by some teenagers who heard her cries for help.

The Mother's Day tornado destroyed or damaged 20 buildings and homes and injured 9 people.

Listen to the Congresswoman's interview here: Read More

House lawmakers call for vote on human trafficking bill


A bipartisan group of House members are urging their top leaders to allow a floor vote on legislation aimed at curbing human trafficking that passed in the Senate last month.

In a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), eleven lawmakers called for finishing work on an issue supported by both sides.

The bill, S. 178, titled the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, passed 99-0 last month after a dispute over abortion that stretched on for weeks and stalled confirmation of Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

The measure would create a special fund for victims of sex crimes and incorporates language of ten bills passed by the House earlier this year. Those bills include imposing a penalty for knowingly selling advertisements to exploit sex trafficking victims, as well as encouraging states to adopt "safe harbor" laws for trafficked children by giving them preference for federal grants.

 "S. 178 presents an opportunity for both chambers to stand together in support of important legislation that helps vulnerable children across America. This legislation also positions the United States as a leader in the fight against modern slavery," the lawmakers, led by Reps. Ted Poe (R-Texas) and Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), wrote.

The letter's signatories included Reps. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Joe Heck (R-Nev.), Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Mark Walker (R-N.C.), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) and Gwen Moore (D-Wis.).

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Sen. Thune & Rep. Noem Tour Delmont Tornado Damage


Sen. John Thune and Rep. Kristi Noem toured the devastation in Delmont Monday afternoon.

Both Thune and Noem met with tornado victims to hear their stories and find out what they need most during this difficult time.

Thune says right now it seems like everyone is doing all they can, clearing debris and gathering belongings.

He says once that's over, they'll figure out the next step in terms of rebuilding.

Both Thune and Noem compared the damage to last year's tornado in Wessington Springs.

"You never cease to be amazed at just how destructive something like this is and just how it completely decimates these buildings," said Thune.

"Obviously, from the investments that have been made here in Delmont, this town wants to stay here and wants to continue to have a successful community. It may be a bit of a struggle for them because of lack of population, but that doesn't make it any less important," said Noem.

Noem says she's impressed with the response from surrounding communities, but would expect nothing less from South Dakotans.

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Delmont tornado: 'It's just staggering'


Officials who visited Delmont on Monday all agreed: the scene is overwhelming.

"It's just staggering," said Sen. John Thune.

Thune and Rep. Kristi Noem visited Delmont the day after a tornado ripped through the town, leaving a swath of decimated homes and personal items in its wake. Sen. Mike Rounds did not visit, citing committee commitments in Washington, D.C. Mark Johnston, East River director for Rounds, visited Delmont on the senator's behalf.

Delmont, a town of about 235 people, was still reeling from the force of the twister that struck on Sunday, laying waste to 44 structures and injuring nine people, according to updated numbers officials gave Monday. Those 44 structures are homes and buildings with major damage or that are destroyed and another 12 buildings have minor damage. There were no businesses damaged, but the swath of the storm was plenty for the small town.

"This is something that is going to take all hands on deck," Noem said when she arrived on scene Monday afternoon.

The National Weather Service in Sioux Falls said Sunday the storm was an EF-2 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale used for tornadoes, with peak winds of 130 mph and an estimated path 400 yards wide.

Noem and Thune both discussed the possibility of FEMA assistance, noting that the damages have to reach a certain monetary level before federal assistance can come into play. Thune said it's too soon to tell whether Delmont meets that threshold, but Noem seemed optimistic of the possibility.

"This community's going to need a lot of help," Thune said.

Sunday's response to the tornado was swift, from local and state personnel.

Delmont Fire Chief Elmer Goehring, also a storm spotter, was about a half-mile east of town when he saw the tornado. Born and raised in the area, he's seen tornadoes before—but not the ruin left by this one.

"I've never been up close and personal with this much destruction," he said.

Goehring was in town soon after the twister hit, and said Charles Mix and Douglas County emergency managers arrived just minutes after he did. Because Delmont's emergency vehicles were in the fire hall that collapsed, it could not deploy its own vehicles. Within hours, however, local, regional and state resources had arrived.

The Red Cross had volunteers on scene about an hour after the tornado, and were still there Monday distributing food and drinks. Goehring also said additional help came from Hutchinson County and a slew of volunteer fire departments in the surrounding towns. Goehring described it as a perfect example of the strong working relationship between area fire and EMS crews, and the communities in the area.

"You don't have to beg for help. Help comes without asking," he said.

He and Delmont Mayor Mae Gunnare also praised the state emergency management response and Highway Patrol, which helped organize and coordinate cleanup and relief efforts on the ground Sunday and Monday.

"We've been thankful for all the help the surrounding communities have been," Gunnare said. "It's been a team effort."

Gov. Dennis Daugaard also visited the scene on Sunday, vowing the state would do what it could to support the community as it recovers. Public and weather officials made numerous comparisons, both strength and the type of damage, to the tornado that hit Wessington Springs last year in June. Thune described the scene as "all too familiar."

"It's heartbreaking as always," he said. "You look at this and are grateful there wasn't loss of life. I never cease to be amazed at how powerful these things are and the damage they do."

Getting back on track

South Dakota Department of Public Safety Spokesman Tony Mangan, Mayor Gunnare and other officials stressed safety is still their primary concern. Gunnare said the propane leaks that were an issue Sunday had been resolved by Monday, but officials said there are areas in town they consider unsafe.

To ensure people evacuated Delmont on Sunday night, Gunnare said Highway Patrol and Douglas County patrolled town, with no incidents.

"Thank you," Gunnare added with a smile.

She said the people of the town are doing OK, and are relieved there were no fatalities or life-threatening injuries. Of the nine people injured, seven had been treated and released as of Sunday night.

What's next for rebuilding the town, Gunnare said, is still being determined.

"One step at a time, folks," she said.

During a community meeting Monday night at the Tripp-Delmont school gym in Tripp, NorthWestern Energy Spokesman Tom Glanzer estimated that power would return to part of the city by midday today. The west side of the city will be a long-term project, he said.

"Obviously, from the pictures that you're seeing here, the west side has a lot of work to be done before we can even consider bringing power back to this area," Glanzer said. "Some of them will get back in power sooner than others, but there's some decisions that have to be made first, whether or not they're going to rebuild their homes, so our main focus is to get the backbone of the system repaired."

NorthWestern crews have been working along 401st Street between the town and U.S. Highway 18, trying to repair the main substation that served the community. NorthWestern has more than 30 people working in the city on the downed lines.

"If you look at the path, it ran right through there and then into town," he said. "It helped that we were able to shut things down for [Sunday night], go home and get supplies and then come back and get to work again."

City officials also expected to turn the water back on to the city for homes located in areas with minimal damage.

Tripp-Delmont School Superintendent Gail Swanson said the district will not have school today, as they continue to let the American Red Cross operate out of their gym and commons area. The district will have a half-day of school for the remainder of the week, but Thursday and Friday were already scheduled for half days. Swanson said baccalaureate and graduation exercises for the district's 14 seniors remain on schedule for Saturday at 1 p.m. and 2 p.m., respectively.

"What a life lesson. We've got tragedy and joy," she said, referring to the week and its connection for the district's graduates. "And as a school community, we'll get through it together."

Picking through the remains

Despite Monday's difficult weather conditions, families combed through the storm's wreckage, which extended from a farm a couple of miles south of town into the western part of Delmont's Main Street.

On Seaman Street, a street lined with rubble, a power line wrapped around a fire hydrant amid branches and other debris. Fence panels lay smashed in piles of wood and branches, next to upturned lawnmowers and children's toys. Curtains flapped in the wind, with no protection from the glass that was blown out of windows. Insulation lay scattered through town, while some peeked through the gaping holes left in rooftops of those houses left standing.

Further up Seaman Street, a livestock trailer lay on its side, still chained to the pickup that was pulling it before the tornado hurled it more than a mile. The pickup was upside down and mangled, with a wicker chair embedded into the vehicle bed.

The damage deepens further into town, covering about six blocks from north to south. All throughout the area, power lines snake across roads and weave in and out of fence and tree lines, along with the poles that were snapped and severed during the storm. Trees lay in various states of injury. Some held bits of debris in their branches, from towels and insulation scraps, to large panels of tin. Some were uprooted entirely. Branches and limbs filled the streets and former house lots.

"I'm always amazed by the trees," Noem said. "I'm constantly amazed by the power of Mother Nature."

By Monday afternoon, members of the South Dakota Air National Guard were in town with chainsaws, focused on tree removal. Heavy equipment, much of it volunteered from public and private enterprises, had not been mobilized yet. The city evacuated all residents Sunday due to safety concerns, but let residents and their family members back into town Monday, in order to salvage what they could.

"(Sunday) wasn't about personal property, it was about making sure people were safe," said Goehring.

Today is expected to be similar to Monday, regarding access to the city. Based on the level of damage, Goehring estimated people would need more time to sift through the rubble. He and Gunnare noted that Monday's weather, with temperatures in the 40s and wind speeds blowing around 30 mph, didn't help.

"People are going to tire out quickly today," he said.

Gunnare said she hoped to give citizens as much time as possible to work through their damaged homes and property. Access will be restricted to homeowners and family members.

The mayor said she was in her home's basement when the twister hit, noting the storm sirens went off in town, warning her of the coming danger.

"I believe that's why there were no fatalities," she said of the working sirens.

Her own home missed major damage. She said the tornado caused minor damage to the house's roof, and some damage to the garage.

"We can handle those," she said. "My main concern is my residents."

How to help

Officials also asked people to hold off on non-monetary donations—for now.

"I know people are anxious to volunteer, I know people are anxious to help," said Sandy Frentz, public information officer for the event. "We need them to sit tight for just a minute."

Frentz is part of the Incident Management Assistance Team, based in Pierre, which she said helps shore up local officials and fill in the gaps or give them a break while they respond to emergencies.

"It is still their response," she said.

The Delmont Disaster Relief Fund has been established for monetary donations. Cash donations designated to the Delmont Disaster Relief Fund can be dropped off at First State Bank locations in Delmont, Tripp, Armour and Geddes. Donations can also be mailed to First State Bank, P.O. Box 68, Delmont, S.D., 57330.

Frentz emphasized that relief efforts are limited to monetary donations for now as officials determine the best way to collect and distribute other items.

"We're still assessing what the community needs, and we're still putting together a process to be able to receive any donations," she said. "It's a bit of a process."

Brian Shawn, regional communications officer for the American Red Cross Dakotas Region, echoed that sentiment, saying there is not room for storage for people to donate physical items like clothes or furniture. He said people can also make financial donations to Red Cross Disaster Relief, which he said "will allow us to continue the response efforts and distribute financial assistance so people can purchase what they need, while working with other partners on clothing, furniture and other items." People can donate by visiting, texting RED CROSS to 90999 or calling 1-800-REDCROSS.

"The needs of every family are different, so a specialized plan for recovery is key," Shawn said.

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Healing After Human Trafficking


Human Trafficking has become a serious issue across the country, including right here in KELOLAND.

For many victims life after being trafficked can be very difficult, but in Sioux Falls, there are resources to make the transition easier.

Many people probably drive past the downtown office every day without a second thought. Inside is an organization that helps human trafficking victims. Formerly known as Be Free, Call To Freedom has been in Sioux Falls for six years. The name change came with a new outlook.

"We are doing a lot more outreach. I'm going out where our clients are versus waiting for them to come through our doors or to be referred to us," Executive Director Kimberly LaPlante said.

LaPlante has been working with trafficking victims around the world for more than 13 years. In South Dakota, she says there's three different ways that people are trafficked. They're brought from bigger cities through South Dakota on the way to North Dakota's Oil Fields. They're sold at large events like the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. And there's homegrown human trafficking -- the most common problem.

"It's often times in family structures, or family systems. Uncles, Aunts, friends of the family, neighbors. It's like interwoven in the family systems," LaPlante said.

Call To Freedom wants to end the cycle. The organization starts at the ground level, providing emergency services to victims. Once away from the threat, Call to Freedom helps victims find housing, get jobs or an education.

"We're there to help them develop support systems; many of them come ground zero to us," LaPlante said.

It's a long journey, but LaPlante says the end product is worth it.

"Often they come to us as victims and then they become survivors," LaPlante said.

One of those survivors is Melissa. She doesn't want to show her face on camera, but says without Call to Freedom, her life wouldn't be the same.

"If I'm having a bad day I can pick up a phone and somebody is there to cheer me up or send me a text message saying, 'Hey, good job.  Way to go. We're here for you. We love you,'" she said.

Melissa was trafficked as a child by her mother. She's been with Call to Freedom for four years. Being able to talk about what happened to her at a young age has made her life after the abuse easier.

"We need the support systems for even like single moms and children. They need somebody for them and Call to Freedom can be the right resources or even be the resource for you," Melissa said.

Another resource is My Sister Friend's House in Sioux Falls. Its doors are open to anyone that is dealing with problems like domestic violence, sex trafficking and stalking. It provides outreach and medical services to make sure everyone under its roof is safe.

"We are pretty much side by side with individuals that need our help," Shelter Coordinator Sarah Johnson said.

Services the state of South Dakota desperately needs.

"We do work with all nine reservations. We work state-wide with other shelters. We are constantly busy. We can't keep up with the amount of calls that are coming in," Johnson said.

Johnson says the best way to fight the issue of human trafficking isn't with shelters, but with people talking about the problem.

"It's about our community collaborating together and educating each other on how we can and can't help. That I think honestly is the biggest piece that we need," Johnson said.

The problem is also getting attention from Capitol Hill. 

The Human Trafficking, Prevention, Intervention and Recovery Act, first introduced by Representative Kristi Noem, recently passed unanimously through the U.S. Senate.  This bill will allow shelters and facilities that aid trafficking victims access to funding.

LaPlante says the legislation is important not just for the funding but also the awareness.

"Whenever we bring something to the table and we begin to have discussions about it, especially as lawmakers and those that have voices, it's great when we have these types of discussions," LaPlante said.

Whether in Washington, D.C. or right here in South Dakota, there is a continuous effort to end the cycle of human trafficking.

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Weekly Column: A Fitting Tribute to the Greatest Generation


On May 8, 1945, Allied forces accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany, ending World War II in Europe and claiming victory over one of history’s cruelest regimes. Seventy years later, we continue to remember the sacrifices made by the Greatest Generation that led to this incredible victory on what has become known as Victory in Europe Day – or VE Day.

It’s hard to imagine what it would have been like stepping into a soldier’s boots during World War II.  The fighting was gruesome, and while we know now that victory was ultimately achieved, these young Americans didn’t have that assurance 70-some years ago when they were leaving their families to head overseas. They were just ordinary folks – farmers, mechanics, students, and others – plunged into the uncertainty of a massive conflict poised to reset the course of human history. More than 68,000 South Dakotans enlisted in the armed services during World War II, according to the South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs, while others stayed behind to work in supporting roles to ensure our military had the equipment and means to achieve victory.

Today, just over 2,500 World War II veterans remain in South Dakota, according to the National World War II Museum.  Each came from ordinary lives and rose to accomplish extraordinary things before returning to once again transform America from within.  My appreciation for these men and women runs deep. 

I’ve had the opportunity to sit with a number of these veterans and their families. Time and again, their stories of bravery inspire me and help me see the power of the American spirit.  As the years go by, these stories are being transferred from generation to generation and it’s my hope that we never lose those accounts.  They are an American treasure.

The Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project has been established to help preserve these stories.  Through the project, the Library of Congress American Folklife Center is collecting first-hand documents and oral accounts from our veterans, preserving them for future generations to learn from.  It’s an incredible project that enables each of us to hear the stories of the Greatest Generation from the veterans themselves and better understand the realities of war.  You can learn more about this effort on the Veterans History Project website at  

Seventy years after claiming victory in Europe, we continue our fight for freedom in the world. It is my hope that this VE Day served to remind all of us that America can and will defeat evil and claim victory for liberty around the globe.

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Noem provision bars ending services


A provision attached to the 2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill would prevent the Department of Veterans Affairs from ending services at the Hot Springs VA Medical Center.

The amendment, written by Rep. Kristi Noem, bars the VA from “ending, suspending, or relocating hospital-based services at a health care facility that is undergoing an Environmental Impact Statement, is designated as a National Historic Landmark, and is located in a highly rural area,” according to a press release from the Congresswoman’s office late on Thursday.

The Hot Springs VA checks all the boxes.

“There is a reason Hot Springs is called ‘The Veterans Town’ and I’m not going to stop fighting on their behalf,” said Noem in a press release. “The VA Hospital in Hot Springs has long provided critical care to South Dakota veterans. My amendment which was approved in the VA appropriations bill is pretty simple: it would prohibit the VA from spending money to shut down or limit services for rural veterans, including those who are treated in Hot Springs.”

Noem’s amendment follows an amendment attached to the 2015 appropriations bill, that prohibited the use of Fiscal Year 2015 funds to complete an EIS at any VA facility that also provided healthcare to veterans in a rural setting.

Noem’s earlier amendment was also seen as being specifically aimed at hindering VA efforts to close the Hot Springs VA Medical Center, a cornerstone of the Black Hills Health Care Systems 2011 proposal.

Last week’s amendment was part of the appropriations bill that passed the House by a vote of 255-163.

It comes just ahead of a planned event by the Save the VA committee on May 15, to call attention to what it says are lies put forth by the VA as the EIS continues.

Several instances - including the number of patients treated, further loss of services and more are part of a Save the VA handout highlighting their planned rally, march and demonstation.

“We are simply asking the VA to keep the promise that it has made to our veterans,” said Save the VA Committee Chairman Pat Russell, “to provide healthcare, and to stop the lies it has made - and continue to make - regarding the Hot Springs VA.”

A full-page informational ad regarding the May 15 event in Hot Springs can be found on Page D1 in this week’s paper.

Committee member Don Ackerman added, “Every statement they (the VA) have made is untrue, yet they continue to make them and the public continues to believe. We need to do something to call attention to their lies.”

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Ceremony Held For Hundreds Of Air National Guard Members


It was a chance to say thank you to the hundreds of South Dakota Air National Guard members heading overseas. The 114th Fighter Wing is deploying to South Korea to work missions with the United States and the Republic of Korea Air Force.

Hundreds pile into this hangar, all saying thanks to the brave men and women of the 114th Fighter Wing Mobilization Ceremony. 250 unit members are heading to South Korea.

Three are from one family. The McCarthy family from Madison has been taking flight for their country for decades and these three siblings are no different. They are deploying together for the second time.

"Still a family over here but we still live our separate lives but over there every single day, you work with them every single day, and you're part of each other's life every single day and you lean on each other for support," Staff Sargent Gerard McCarthy said.

For many, the first time deploying can be a scary time, but for Malorie McCarthy having the support from her brothers made it easier.

"It was amazing having both of my older brothers there. It was very comforting. You know, first deployments and deploying at all. It's extremely comforting," Malorie said.

This unit heading across the Pacific Ocean is well respected. Last year, they received the Spaatz Trophy, an award to the top overall Air National Guard flying unit.

"We just don't send anybody to go and do these jobs to keep peace in areas of turmoil. We send our best, and that's why you're being called on. I have no doubt that you are the very best in the nation to do do the job you're going to do," U.S. Representative Kristi Noem said.

Oldest brother Matt says even though he is part of a great group of Air National Guard Members, he will still keep an eye out for his siblings.

"Just fearing for their safety, even knowing we're in one of the safest places you can be deployed to," Matt said.

Three siblings, joining a family of 250, to help keep the peace worldwide.

The unit will be deploying sometime in the next week. They will be over seas for four months.

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2015-04-17 15:23:22

Contact Information

1323 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Phone 202-225-2801
Fax 202-225-5823

Committee Assignments

Ways and Means

U.S. Representative Kristi Noem is a wife, mother, experienced rancher, farmer, and former small business owner. Kristi was born and raised in rural Hamlin County in northeastern South Dakota and still lives there today with her husband, Bryon, and their three children, Kassidy, Kennedy, and Booker.

Kristi learned the value of hard work early in life from her father. He put Kristi, her sister and two brothers to work on the family farm at a young age caring for the cattle and horses and helping with planting and harvest. After graduating from high school, Kristi began attending college at Northern State University in Aberdeen. When her father died unexpectedly in a farming accident, Kristi returned to the family farm and ranch full-time. Her father’s death left a huge absence, so Kristi stepped up and helped stabilize the operation and provided leadership when it was needed most.

Kristi’s work on the farm and ranch didn’t go unnoticed. In 1997 she received the South Dakota Outstanding Young Farmer award and in 2003 she was honored with the South Dakota Young Leader award.

Kristi’s experience as a small business owner shaped her understanding of government and its purpose. Too often, government is inefficient and ineffective, simply getting in the way of small businesses and entrepreneurs who wish to create jobs and grow our economy. Realizing this, Kristi decided to get involved to try and make a difference.

Her service includes the South Dakota State Farm Agency State Committee, the Commission for Agriculture in the 21st Century, the South Dakota Soybean Association, and numerous other boards and committees. In the fall of 2006, Kristi was elected as the 6th District Representative to the South Dakota House of Representatives.

Kristi quickly realized she could serve her district, and the State of South Dakota, more effectively in a leadership position. So in her second term she ran for, and won, the position of Assistant Majority Leader in the State House, where she served until 2010.

Kristi was first elected to serve as South Dakota’s lone Member of the U.S. House of Representatives on November 2, 2010.

While keeping up with her Congressional duties in Washington, D.C. and work with constituents in South Dakota, Kristi continued to take undergraduate courses from South Dakota State University. In December 2011, Kristi graduated from SDSU with her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science.

On November 6, 2012, Kristi was re-elected to the U.S. House of Representatives where she continues to serve on the Agriculture Committee and House Armed Services Committee.

Kristi enjoys helping her daughters compete in rodeo and 4-H. She has been a 4-H leader for 14 years. Kristi is also an avid hunter. She particularly enjoys pheasant hunting on the homestead and archery elk with her brothers.

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