Bill That Reverses 'Open Waters Compromise' Heads To Senate Floor

Feb 8, 2018

Credit Lee Strubinger / SDPB

The Senate Ag Committee is sending a bill that reopens any closed non-meandered lakes to the full senate without supporting the bill.

Proponents say current law allows a private landowner to close public water without a due process. This bill changes that.

However, Senate Bill 199 has an uphill battle to get passed.

The issue centers in Day County where several lakes formed in sloughs decades ago following heavy snow and rainfall.

Senate Bill 199 reopens all waters, including any of those recently closed under what’s called the “open waters compromise.” Lawmakers met during special session over the summer to pass that law.

This bill opens any non-meandered lake over private property for recreational use regardless of permission from the owner.

Landowners would have to petition a special commission set up by the governor to have any lakes closed.

Senator Jim White is the prime sponsor of the bill. He says this bill creates the same process for closure of all bodies of water under scrutiny.

“The law right now, there’s section 8 lakes—about 20 lakes—that have this process of opening, and you can petition to close,” White says. “We would have been fine to have that will all the lakes. Because there is a process, then, that the water is open, but there is some control over it.”

Opponents of the bill, and landowners, say sportswomen and men would get more access to open water under the current compromise.

Dave Sigdestad is a Day County landowner. He and his brother both own property with about 210 acres under water.

“What I wanted to see done is let this bill that was done last year—give it a chance,” Sigdestad says. “As you heard during testimony, our sheriff in the county has had no trouble, really, this year. About ziltch, so it’s really helped out. So, I think to change something that’s… give it a chance to work. Less than six months ago this bill was passed.”

Several members of the Senate Ag Committee support sending SB 199 down to the floor for a vote, but say they oppose the bill.

Governor Dennis Daugaard says his priority is to extend the sunset of the current rules in place.