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Tiling critic dumped from watershed task force

PIERRE -- The 2013 appointments are in place for the Legislature's watershed task force. Like so much of water politics in South Dakota, there is some controversy attached.

The chairman of the state Board of Water and Natural Resources, Brad Johnson of Watertown, didn't receive a new term on the task force.

Instead, Kim Vanneman, of Ideal, received the slot that he had.

And that's where matters get complicated.

Vanneman was on the task force last year as a Republican member of the state House of Representatives. She didn't seek re-election.

She stays on the task force, however. She was appointed to the general-public seat that was held by Johnson.

House Speaker Brian Gosch, R-Rapid City, made the appointment.

Johnson saw himself as an advocate on the task force for clean lakes and streams. Johnson said he wasn't notified he wasn't being reappointed and he found out third-hand.

The task force was created by the Legislature in 2012 and established to last three years.

"Each initial term was only for one year so everyone was technically off at the end of the term. Everyone wanted back on," Gosch said. "Kim could no longer serve as a legislative member so she would have to serve as a citizen member."

Johnson said Monday he wasn't asked whether he wanted to serve again. Johnson acknowledged that he didn't let Gosch know that he wanted to stay on the task force.

Johnson said he assumed it was a three-year appointment.

The law creating the task force specifically said the initial appointments had to be made by July 1, 2012, and would serve until Jan. 12, 2013.

Johnson said he thought he was dropped because of his views on agricultural tiling and its effects on lakes and streams.

The task force's scope under state law is broad. But one of the specific roles is to look at drainage issues, including planning and management, resolution of disputes, and recommendations for possible realignments of responsibilities drainage matters.

Supporters and users of drainage tiling for agricultural fields made their opposition well known during the 2013 session to a proposal from some of the task force members who are legislators.

SB 179 sought to establish a uniform application for counties that wanted to issue drainage permits. The legislation was killed.

Johnson said he saw the significance of agriculture's political clout at the task force's two meetings last year.

"It became very clear that our state has no understanding of the implications of the pollution or potential flood impacts that may occur from the thousands of miles of new drain tile that is being installed," Johnson said Monday.

"It also was clear the counties lack the resources or direction to deal with the issue which is rapidly transforming South Dakota's landscape," he continued.

The eight legislators selected for the 2013 task force are Rep. Dennis Feickert, D-Aberdeen; Sen. Jason Frerichs, D-Wilmot; Rep. Spencer Hawley, D-Brookings; Rep. Leslie Heinemann, R-Flandreau; Sen. Tom Jones, D-Viborg; Sen. Russ Olson, R-Wentworth; Sen. Mike Vehle, R-Mitchell; and Gosch.

The task force's first meeting this year is scheduled for April 22 at the Mitchell Ramada Inn and Suites.