S.D. Water Board chairman loses seat

Farm Forum

PIERRE – The 2013 appointments are in place for the Legislature’s watershed task force, and like so much of water politics in South Dakota, there is some controversy.

The chairman of the state Board of Water and Natural Resources, Brad Johnson of Watertown, didn’t receive a new term on the task force.

Instead, Kim Vanneman of Ideal received the slot that he had.

And that’s where matters get complicated.

Vanneman was on the task force last year as a Republican member of the state House of Representatives. She didn’t seek re-election.

She stays on the task force, however. She was appointed to the general-public seat that was held by Johnson.

House Speaker Brian Gosch, R-Rapid City, made the appointment.

Johnson saw himself as an advocate on the task force for clean lakes and streams. Johnson said he wasn’t notified he wasn’t being reappointed and he found out third-hand.

The task force was created by the Legislature in 2012 and established to last three years.

“Each initial term was only for one year, so everyone was technically off at the end of the term. Everyone wanted back on,” Gosch said. “Kim could no longer serve as a legislative member, so she would have to serve as a citizen member.”

Johnson said on April 1 he wasn’t asked whether he wanted to serve again. Johnson acknowledged that he didn’t let Gosch know that he wanted to stay on the task force.

Johnson said he assumed it was a three-year appointment.

The law creating the task force specifically said the initial appointments had to be made by July 1, 2012, and would serve until Jan. 12, 2013.

Johnson said he thought he was dropped because of his views on agricultural tiling and its effects on lakes and streams.

The task force’s scope under state law is broad. But one of the specific roles is to look at drainage issues, including planning and management, resolution of disputes and recommendations for possible realignments of responsibilities for drainage matters.

Supporters and users of drainage tiling for agricultural fields made their opposition well known during the 2013 session to a proposal from some of the task force members who are legislators.

Senate Bill 179 sought to establish a uniform application for counties that wanted to issue drainage permits. The legislation was killed.

Johnson said he saw the significance of agriculture’s political clout at the task force’s two meetings last year.

“It became very clear that our state has no understanding of the implications of the pollution or potential flood impacts that may occur from the thousands of miles of new drain tile that is being installed,” Johnson said on April 1.

“It also was clear the counties lack the resources or direction to deal with the issue, which is rapidly transforming South Dakota’s landscape,” he continued.

The eight legislators selected for the 2013 task force are Rep. Dennis Feickert, D-Aberdeen; Sen. Jason Frerichs, D-Wilmot; Rep. Spencer Hawley, D-Brookings; Rep. Leslie Heinemann, R-Flandreau; Sen. Tom Jones, D-Viborg; Sen. Russ Olson, R-Wentworth; Sen. Mike Vehle, R-Mitchell; and Gosch.

The House appointments are made by the House speaker, who this year is Gosch. The Senate appointments are made by the Senate president pro tem, who this year is Sen. Corey Brown, R-Gettysburg. State law requires that two members from each political party be picked from each legislative chamber.

The two officers also are required by law to each make three general-public appointments. Gosch chose to keep Vanneman. That meant finding a slot for her from his three citizen seats. He put her in Johnson’s spot.

In her last term as a legislator, Vanneman chaired the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. She was selected as South Dakota Republican Party vice chairman in February.

In addition to Vanneman, the general-public members of the task force are Dennis Duncan of Parker, Mike Jaspers of Sioux Falls, Rick Sommers of Aberdeen, Paul Symens of Amherst and George Vandel of Pierre. They all return from last year.

Jaspers, Symens and Vanneman are former legislators. Vandel is a retired state Game, Fish and Parks Department biologist.

Duncan is a lawyer and a lobbyist whose public service through the decades has included several other state boards and commissions. Sommers is an Aberdeen lawyer in the same firm as Gosch’s father and is a former Brown County chief deputy state’s attorney.

Heinemann fills the House member slot previously held by Vanneman.

Jones previously served on the task force as a House member. He was elected to the Senate in November and fills the task force slot that was held by Sen. Jim Hundstad, D-Bath, who didn’t seek re-election.

Feickert in turn fills the House slot that was held by Jones.

The task force’s first meeting this year will be April 22 at the Mitchell Ramada Inn.