Nonmeandered waters will be back before legislators, again

Elisa Sand
Farm Forum

One of the most discussed topics during the 2017 legislative session will crop up again this year as lawmakers gather at the Capitol in Pierre.

But just how significant the talk of nonmeandered waters will be remains to be seen, local legislators say.

During a special summer session, the Legislature approved emergency regulations addressing the use of nonmeandered lakes. But they are only in effect thought June 30.

Nonmeandered waters weren’t mapped by surveyors before statehood in 1889, but have since grown into lakes. Bills pertaining to the use of those lakes have been discussed for years, but legislators were told additional laws were needed after a 2016 decision by the South Dakota Supreme Court. The law passed generally declares nonmeandered waters as open unless property owners post them closed.

That it has an expiration date guarantees more discussion. But District 3 Rep. Drew Dennert, R-Aberdeen, said the amount of time spend on the issue could be minimal or considerable. It depends on two factors — whether legislators plan to simply extend expiration date or make changes.

Senate Bill 24 has already been filed and proposes an extension to June 30, 2021. It has the support of Gov. Dennis Daugaard. But not Dennert.

He said most other lawmakers he’s visited with don’t like the law in its current form.

District 3 Sen. Al Novstrup, R-Aberdeen, said neither landowners nor sportsmen are happy with the law as is.

“Both will come with ideas,” he said.

Legislators will want to keep a law that maintains a balance between the rights of outdoors enthusiasts and landowners, he said.

District 3 Rep. Dan Kaiser, R-Aberdeen, said he would support some adjustments to the law. For one thing, he said, lawmakers should outline posting requirements for no trespassing signs instead of deferring to the state Department of Game, Fish and Parks.

Secondly, he said, he doesn’t back a scenario in which South Dakotans are giving up public water access.

The law now identifies 27 nonmeandered lakes that are open to the public. It also gives landowners the right to petition GFP to close portions of those lakes.

The nonmeandered waters issue is big in northeast South Dakota, which has an abundance of glacial lakes and lakes created by flooding in the 1990s.