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Daugaard calls special session to address non-meandered waters issue

PIERRE – Gov. Dennis Daugaard used his executive authority Wednesday to call the South Dakota Legislature back to Pierre for a special session Monday, June 12, on nonmeandered waters that lay over private property.

The session convenes at 10 a.m. CDT.

Fifteen lawmakers spent five days this spring on a special task force that the Legislature’s Executive Board appointed in April to consider regulations for nonmeandered waters.

They can be as small as cattail potholes or as large as open lakes, especially in the northeastern counties of South Dakota. They are often floodwaters that remained from the 1980s and ‘90s after being trapped in closed basins.

The legislators’ task force met for the fourth and final time Friday, generating a draft bill that will be the starting point when the 105 lawmakers – or as many of them who can attend the special session Monday on short notice – gather again at the Capitol.

The final draft is at on the Legislative Research Council’s website.

“The interim legislative committee considered hours of testimony and struck a good compromise that balanced the rights of landowners with the ability for sportsmen to use public waters for recreation,” Daugaard said in a statement released by his office Wednesday afternoon.

He added: “I hope the Legislature can act quickly to resolve this long-standing issue.”

 “I hope the Legislature can act quickly to resolve this long-standing issue.”

South Dakota lawmakers last held a special session in 2011 to draw new boundaries for the 35 legislative districts.

The task force leaders, Rep. Lee Qualm, R-Platte, and Sen. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, said Friday the decision was up to the governor for calling the Legislature into special session.

LRC’s staff canvassed legislators in recent days to see whether June 12 or June 14-15 better met lawmakers’ schedules.

The South Dakota Supreme Court set off a chain of events when the justices ruled unanimously March 15 in a case known as Duerre v. Hepler that neither landowners nor recreation users had superior rights to use some waters in Day County.

The justices said the Legislature needed to resolve the matter.

The state Game, Fish and Parks Department in early April decided to close 25 nonmeandered waters where GFP officials had spent public money on infrastructure such as boat ramps and parking lots.

That in turn caused protests from anglers and from businesses that served them, including bait sellers, boat shops, restaurants and lodges.

GFP Secretary Kelly Hepler said he was willing to do what the Legislature wanted. Qualm, the House Republican leader, praised Hepler on Friday afternoon for being cooperative.

“Without him and his attitude, we wouldn’t be at this point,” Qualm said.

The final version declares nonmeandered waters open to public use unless a landowner posts them as closed.

It also incorporated Greenfield’s amendments that prohibit landowners from profiting off waters they close and requiring GFP to report back to the Legislature’s Executive Board in 2019.