Missing the Fairway – A Creative Sewer Design through a Private Golf Course

The City of Sioux Falls, South Dakota is experiencing rapid growth and is being pressured to open additional land for development. A ridgeline on the City’s eastern border prevents the extension of the existing gravity sewer system and creates the need for a completely new system.

As shown in Figure 1, the new $31 million dollar system will extend from the ridgeline eastward to the Big Sioux River and will open up almost 9,000 acres for development. The terrain in the areas of the project primarily consists of large hills with steep slopes and deep drainage ways. Construction of the new system is further complicated by the location of a major sewer alignment directly through a private golf course. In order for the project to succeed, the golf course ownership had to be shown the need for the project and consent to the easement agreements for their property. Several creative options were proposed and implemented which ultimately allowed the design to be agreed upon and the construction of the project to be completed on time.


To inform and educate attendees on effective solutions for designing sewer alignments and negotiating easement agreements through critical properties.


Willow Run (Golf Course) is a privately owned golf course on the Eastern edge of the Sioux Falls metro area. The course lies in a low area with natural streams winding through it down to the Big Sioux River and is surrounded by rolling wooded hills with nearby rural housing developments. This makes for an ideal setting for a beautiful golf course but also is the perfect location for the trunk lines of a sanitary sewer system. During preliminary design, the topography of the surrounding areas and drainage basins dictated that the main sewer interceptor alignment should be installed along the drainageway that runs through the course. To further complicate matters, a 16” sanitary sewer forcemain pipe would need to be installed along the 30” interceptor pipe and three other lateral sewer alignments would also be installed through other drainage ways within the golf course limits. As shown on Figure 2, the resulting disruption to the course would total over 14,400 linear feet of pipe installation including 17 creek crossings and almost 19 acres of restoration within the golf course. The anticipated disruption to the course would be devastating and it would need to be closed during construction as the sewer installation would disturb 15 of the 18 holes.

As expected, Golf Course ownership was not very receptive to the initial meetings and presentations on the sewer project. The ownership realized the benefits that the sanitary sewer alignment would have on the development value of the golf course and surrounding properties, but was seeking a large financial payment to offset the damage to the course landscaping and loss of business during construction. The City of Sioux Falls concurred that this was a unique situation in that the golf course was a business where access to the course was their product and that a lack of access to the course would mean “no business”. The city then worked with the course ownership to determine the effects of a loss of business for the period of time from which the golf course would need to be closed until the end of the golfing season. Course revenues were based on a total of the number of rounds played, cart rentals, and concessions and pro shop sales. A four year average of the income from each source was used to calculate the total financial impact to the golf course. In preparation for the anticipated loss of play for the end of the 2005 season, the course ownerships did not raise the rates for their annual 2006 season golf passes in order to establish “good will” for their patrons.

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