GF&P seeks to close deadly mile of riverFORT PIERRE — The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission decided Thursday to propose closing a deadly stretch of the Belle Fourche River in Butte County to boaters.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capital Bureau
FORT PIERRE — The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission decided Thursday to propose closing a deadly stretch of the Belle Fourche River in Butte County to boaters.
A public hearing will be held at 2 p.m. March 3 at the commission’s next meeting in Pierre.
The no-boating zone would be about one mile long. It would start at the U.S. 212 highway bridge at the east edge of Belle Fourche, and continue downstream to a point 100 yards beyond the federal Bureau of Reclamation diversion structure that sends water into the Orman reservoir canal.
Three people drowned and three others nearly did last year. The stretch has been temporarily closed by the Butte County sheriff to protect public safety.
Emmett Keyser, an assistant director for the state Wildlife Division, said a dangerous situation is created at times of high water flow. He said boaters and swimmers get trapped at the diversion point by the backflow of water and find escape difficult or impossible.
“These hydraulics are often called drowning machines,” Keyser said.
Mike Kintigh, the regional supervisor for the Wildlife Division, said the Highway 212 bridge has been an easy place for people to put in canoes and other small boats.
But, he said, there’s no easy way to get boats back out before they reach the dangerous area, and the high banks in the area make portaging difficult.
Rather than try to row back upstream, boaters try to get around the diversion and put themselves at risk, according to Kintigh.
He said the county sheriff and the Bureau of Reclamation support the noboating zone.
There is another access point about a half-mile downstream from the diversion area, Kintigh said.