Day County

Non-Meandered Waters Resurface In South Dakota Capitol

Jan 18, 2018
Lee Strubinger / SDPB

On Thursday, a Senate legislative committee passed an extension of what some call “the open waters compromise.”

Lawmakers met last summer to implement rules for public access to those waters.

For landowners it’s about property rights. For recreationists, it’s about water rights.

The decades long debate is far from over.

The issue of non-meandered waters in South Dakota has garnered two state supreme court decisions, called for several summer study sessions and gathered lawmakers last summer for a special session vote.

Lee Strubinger / SDPB

South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks officials are optimistic about the rules put in place for public access to water situated over private land.

Over the summer, the legislature prompted the state GF & P to draft rules that open those bodies of water for recreation, unless a landowner deems otherwise. Those rules expire in June.

The governor wants the legislature to extend those rules to 2021.

The rules put in place were meant to please both landowners and recreationists in the prairie pothole region in the northeastern part of the state.

Kent Osborne / SDPB

One state lawmaker says he hopes a special session is called very soon to determine what beneficial use of non-meandered water is for the public.
 
During day two of public hearings on the issue in Aberdeen, State Senator Brock Greenfield says he hopes a special legislative session is called soon to consider any legislation.
 

Lee Strubinger / SDPB

The first of two legislative hearings on non-meandered waters is being held in Aberdeen. Many testifiers focused on the economic benefit fishing has in Northeastern South Dakota.

Some sportsmen say they want a solution that also makes landowners happy.

Water has flooded private property in Day County for decades, and hunters, fishermen and women, and outdoors-people have constitutional access to that water. This has created a rift between landowners and recreationist.

Lee Strubinger / SDPB

An issue that infiltrated the 1990's is catching the eye of South Dakotans who fish.

The South Dakota Supreme Court will rule on the second of two lawsuits pertaining to public access to bodies of water for recreation. It’s an issue that took center stage in Day County where several bodies of water formed more than two decades ago following heavy snow and spring rains.

Since then sportsmen have wanted access to the water that pools on private property, but landowners want their privacy. State law holds water in trust for “beneficial use” for the public.

Steve Munsen

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Lori Walsh

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