When you get back from fishing this weekend, there will be meetings on both sides of the state to discuss the nonmeandered waters issue.
Ken Santema, who is documenting this controversy closely, notes that the South Dakota Wildlife Federation and 29-90 Sportsman’s Club are hosting a meeting in Sioux Falls Tuesday, May 30, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. CDT at the Hub building at Southeast Tech. Those two groups oppose the draft legislation and say they have “12 words to fix water law in South Dakota.”
Rep. Hugh Bartels (R-5/Watertown) and the Kampeska Chapter of the Izaak Walton League are hosting a meeting in Watertown on Wednesday, May 31, starting at 7 p.m. CDT on the fourth floor of Lake Area Tech.
Much of the brouhaha over nonmeandered waters has taken place here in East River, where water is slower and more abundant than in the Black Hills and on the non-glaciated Plains. But West River fishing enthusiasts, wildlife and water advocates, agriculturalists, and property rights defenders can discuss the issue this week at the Prairie Hills Audubon Society‘s Wednesday meeting:
- What: PHAS Meeting
- When: Wednesday, May 31, 6:30 p.m. MDT
- Where: Outdoor Campus West, Rapid City
PHAS opposes the special-session legislation, which was drafted by the Governor’s office and the Big Ag lobby. PHAS says the draft legislation leans far too much toward allowing business interests to privatize and commercialize to public water:
This draft bill will allow (by giving property owners the free choice to restrict access to these non-meandered waters)…. privatization of a large precent of SD water bodies. Violators of restricted access areas will be guilty of criminal trespass. The types of bodies of water in question currently belong to the public. Local private property owners, under the status quo, own the ground beneath the non-meandered lakes in question, but not the lakes themselves or the wildlife, fish, invertebrates and plants that reside in the lakes. The public owns all water and the biodiversity that is above the lake bed. With this bill the landowner can restrict the public access to something the public owns and thus land owners acquire unique access for themselves and their friends. If they commercialize such access — they have successfully privatized some of SD’s wildlife and fish for sale for private gain (you can’t fish, hunt, trap, photograph or “nature study” such without paying for access to do so) [Prairie Hills Audubon Society, online statement, retrieved 2017.05.28].
PHAS and Santema both note that there’s a lot more nonmeandered water that could be affected (i.e., closed to public access) by the draft legislation than I thought. According to this Game Fish and Parks presentation to the nonmeandered waters interim committee, nonmeandered waters make up over 70% of the natural lakes in South Dakota:
But notice in that same presentation that GF&P says 152 of the 267 meandered lakes offer fishing, while only 91 of the 29,033 nonmeandered lakes offer fishing. By those numbers, the draft legislation affects 56,000 nonmeandered lake acres, 9.5% of nonmeandered waters in the state.
Folks attending the Sioux Falls, Watertown, and Rapid City meetings should also arrange their carpools to Pierre for Friday’s meeting of the Legislature’s nonmeandered waters committee. Friday’s confab should be the last committee meeting before the Governor and legislators decide if they have enough support to call the proposed June 12 special session to pass the draft legislation.