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SD's highest court upholds major piece of case barring public access to Day County sloughs

PIERRE — The South Dakota Supreme Court affirmed a decision to bar public access to portions of two expanding sloughs in Day County.

On Wednesday, the state's highest court upheld a circuit court decision to bar public access to the portions of Jesse and Duerre sloughs that lie on private land, but the court removed a portion of an earlier decision that would block the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish & Parks to allow public access if GF&P were authorized by the state Legislature to do so.

According to plaintiffs Laron Herr and Thad, Clint and Robert Duerre, hundreds would gather at the large sloughs throughout the year to fish since an excessive rainfall expanded the sloughs onto their land in 1993. But the landowners said people would "fire guns, blare music, operate loud machinery, get drunk, litter, cookout, etc." on the sloughs, according to court documents.

The public was represented by GF&P, which appealed to the state's highest court on the grounds that granting the injunction prohibiting use of the waters without consent from the Legislature gives the private landowners right to the water, among other arguments.

The court did not remove the injunction prohibiting the public from accessing the sloughs for recreational purposes, but said until the Legislature acts on the matter, neither the landowners nor the public have an obligation in their favor to the water.