Extension of law governing lakes on private land advances

January 18, 2018

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s bill to extend an expiring law that governs the use of lakes on private land for recreation passed its first legislative test on Thursday.

The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee voted 7-2 to advance the bill to the chamber’s floor. It would move the law’s June sunset date to 2021.

The new law was the product of a special legislative session in June on so-called nonmeandered waters.

The law restored access to nearly 30 specific lakes for public recreation, after a 2017 state Supreme Court decision hampered that access. It also said that lakes on private property are open for recreational use unless a landowner installs signs or buoys saying an area is closed, though property owners could still grant permission to use the water.

Daugaard at the time called the lakes an “economic engine,” saying their closure had hurt small-town businesses.

“The law you passed in June is working, but more time is needed before making a final decision on it,” Hunter Roberts, a policy adviser to Daugaard, told the committee.

Nonmeandered waters are bodies of water that weren’t specifically designated during government surveys in the late 1800s. Some private property has since flooded, forming new, unofficial bodies of water and creating good fishing. But that has come at the cost of farmland and pastures lost by agriculture producers.

The longstanding issue has vexed landowners and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

Eric Cleveringa, a lobbyist for the South Dakota Wildlife Federation Camo Coalition, said the law violates the public trust doctrine by allowing private control of public water.

“Don’t let wrong take root,” he said in opposing the proposed extension.

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