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Bill drafted to address SD's non-meandered waters problem

Anglers use the dock at Clark County's Dry Lake #2, one of several lakes where South Dakota's Department of Game, Fish & Parks will close the public access point. (Matt Gade / Republic)

A bill has been drafted that seeks compromise between property owners and outdoor enthusiasts who wish to recreate on water over private land in South Dakota.

The proposed solution for the 28 lakes listed in the bill with restricted access would be opened, and a new South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks commission process allows landowners to petition to have access restricted.

"The governor believes that this has been a good, open process with opportunities for input from landowners, sportsmen, and others with an interest," said Tony Venhuizen, Gov. Dennis Daugaard's chief of staff. "He is supportive of this compromise and hopes the legislature will support it as well. He is willing to call a special session, once there is an opportunity to gauge legislators so we know there will be adequate support for the proposal."

To see the bill in its entirety, go to South Dakota's Legislative Research Council's website here.

The Legislature's task force on non-meandered waters meets at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the State Capitol in Pierre. The proposed bill is scheduled to be discussed at 10:10 a.m., according to the agenda, and public testimony will be taken at approximately 12:30 p.m. After the discussion, the task force could introduce the bill to be considered by the Legislature. Venhuizen said a June special session is possible.

The potential solution comes on the heels of a South Dakota Supreme Court decision that led GF&P to close public access to more than 20 lakes and sloughs over private land.

A "meandered lake" is defined as "any natural water body, except rivers and streams, for which a meander line survey was included as part of the official survey conducted by the United States Surveyor General for land on which the lake is situated and which meander lines are shown on plats made by the United States General Land Office; while a "non-meandered lake" is defined as "any natural lake which is not a meandered lake."

The proposal also explains that a landowner of any non-meandered lake, which is not specifically listed in the draft, that overlies “private property is open to recreational use without permission of any owner of the private property underlying the non-meandered lake unless the owner of the private property installs conspicuous markers.” That can consist of “signs or buoys” to show the area of the non-meandered lake not open to the public for recreational use.

Other major highlights of the bill discuss means of access, landowner liability and permission.

The final section declares an emergency and says the "Act shall be in full force and effect from and after its passage and approval."