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Governor's Column: A Good Compromise On Nonmeandered Waters


            Office of Gov. Dennis Daugaard

500 E. Capitol Ave.

Pierre, S.D. 57501






FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Friday, April 21, 2017

CONTACT:  Tony Venhuizen or Kelsey Pritchard at 605-773-3212


EDITORS/NEWS DIRECTORS:  Please consider the following column from Gov. Dennis Daugaard. For an audio recording of the Governor’s weekly column, visit news.sd.gov/media.aspx and click on “Audio” under “Governor Dennis Daugaard.”



A Good Compromise On Nonmeandered Waters


A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:


For at least 20 years, the northeastern part of our state has been dealing with the issue of nonmeandered waters. For that entire time, the state has NOT been dealing with the problems that our laws have caused.


This issue arose during the 1990s, when eastern South Dakota received far more moisture than normal. Excessive rainfall created new lakes – called nonmeandered lakes – out of areas that once were farmland, pastures, small sloughs or other watersheds. Nonmeandered lakes come in all shapes and sizes, and offer varying degrees of recreational opportunities. Some, such as Cottonwood Lake in Spink County, are well-developed with several boat ramps and over 100 cabins and homes surrounding it; others may be only a couple of acres and a few feet deep.


As the waters of nonmeandered lakes expanded, so did their recreational use, much of which is tied to exceptional fishing in some of the new lakes. As fishing became more commonplace, so did conflicts between sportsmen and landowners. Complaints emerged about boat trailers blocking roadways, littering, noise and many others.


Unfortunately, our state laws surrounding nonmeandered waters have been ambiguous. While the public has a right to use the water, private landowners also have a right to control their property. Governors and legislators have tried several times to address these issues, but the many competing opinions and interests have made compromise impossible.


Ambiguous laws lead to litigation, and the courts have tried to resolve these ambiguities. But in South Dakota, our courts still understand that it’s not their job to write new laws – it’s their job to ensure the laws are properly and fairly enforced. The South Dakota Supreme Court made that abundantly clear in their Duerre v. Hepler decision this past March. In that decision the Court stated, “it is ultimately up to the Legislature to decide how these waters are to be beneficially used in the public interest.”


Our state legislators heard the Supreme Court’s message loud and clear and the Legislature promptly convened an interim committee to find a solution.


That committee acted quickly. Over the past six weeks, it held four meetings, toured areas inundated with nonmeandered waters, met with affected agricultural producers, sportsmen, and business owners, and heard testimony from over 70 individuals.


The committee was able to mold that mass of information and input into a compromise bill that balances the rights of landowners with the ability of sportsmen to use public waters for recreation. I applaud the efforts of the summer study committee and I support the bill. It will open tens of thousands of acres of nonmeandered waters to public recreation, while respecting the property rights of landowners. You can find it at sdlegislature.gov.


As I write this, I have called a Special Legislative Session for Monday, June 12, to address the recreational use of nonmeandered waters in South Dakota, and I am hopeful that we will finally resolve this issue for the betterment of our state.