Non-meandered bodies of water to be an issue in 2018
In my first year in the Legislature, I have found many state legislatures that surround South Dakota are dealing with the same issues that South Dakota is. Budget shortfalls, landowner rights, excess government regulation and taxes are all issues...
In my first year in the Legislature, I have found many state legislatures that surround South Dakota are dealing with the same issues that South Dakota is. Budget shortfalls, landowner rights, excess government regulation and taxes are all issues that affect all of us in agriculture no matter what state that you reside in.
We also have the surprise issues that come up from year to year that are not predictable and are sometimes singular to our individual states. This year, our Legislature dealt with funding for a diagnostic lab, some land disposition bills, along with many budget items that were important to agriculture.
What will come up next year is usually a mystery this far before next legislative session. In South Dakota, we already know one of the biggest issues that will involve agriculture - non-meandered bodies of water.
The South Dakota Supreme Court recently ruled on a lawsuit regarding a dispute over water that belongs to the public but is above privately-owned land. In South Dakota, the state holds all surface waters in trust for the benefit of the public, but if that water lies above a private landowner's property, it has been disputed if that use should include recreational purposes.
The court has ruled that neither the landowners nor the general public have a superior right to the use of the water. The subject will not be decided by the court but will have to be decided by the Legislature.
The court also ruled that until the Legislature acts upon this issue, the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks cannot facilitate access for members of the public to enter these non-meandered waters. Game, Fish and Parks has interpreted this to mean that they should block all boat ramps on these bodies of water.
Others have argued that blocking the use of ramps is an overreaction and impedes use of the water rather than simply not facilitating their use. There are currently 25 lakes affected by the ruling.
Most larger lakes in the state are meandered lakes and are owned by the state of South Dakota, and are not part of the ruling. These lakes remain open for recreational use by the public.
It is a complex issue that has been tackled by many states that surround South Dakota but in many different ways, so a simple solution is not at hand. It will most likely be one of the main issues studied this summer, and hopefully a reasonable resolution can be attained during the 2018 legislative session.
It has been an honor serving as a representative for the people of District 23 this year, and, while sometimes overwhelming, it has also been very rewarding and extremely educational.
I would also like to thank the editors of Agweek for inviting me to write these monthly updates and hope that I have offered a little insight into some of the issues concerning agriculture here in South Dakota.