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Senate says 'yes' to longer non-meandered water laws

PIERRE — Laws the South Dakota Legislature passed last year regulating public recreational uses of non-meandered waters that lay over privately owned lands should continue until July 1, 2021, the state Senate decided Tuesday.

Senators voted 26-9 for the extension. The measure, SB 24, now goes to the House of Representatives. Without an extension, the laws expire this year on June 30.

One of the yeses came from Sen. Jeff Partridge, R-Rapid City. When the Legislature met June 12 for the special session, Partridge insisted on the June 30, 2018, expiration.

The Senate stood with him that day. The House and Gov. Dennis Daugaard had wanted June 30, 2021.

The Senate got back on the House-Daugaard track Tuesday.

Sen. Gary Cammack, R-Union Center, said he received 25 to 100 emails daily on the topic of non-meandered waters before the special session. Since then he's received zero.

"This has been like a breath of fresh air for both sides," Cammack said.

Sen. Bob Ewing, R-Spearfish, agreed. "The legislation we put in place last summer needs time to work," he said.

Ewing praised Secretary Kelly Hepler for re-positioning the state Game, Fish and Parks Department, moving toward a more-neutral spot in the center.

"We need to give this bill we passed last summer an opportunity," Ewing said.

The Legislature declared the waters belong to the public but said nearly any private landowner could ask the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission to close all or part of the person's water to recreational use. The Legislature also declared a list of more than two dozen waters to automatically be open because of their historical use.

Sen. Deb Soholt, R-Sioux Falls, said she's wasn't sure the perspective was as rosy as the previous speakers portrayed. But, Soholt said, it was important to have a repeal date so the Legislature and the public could be assured there would be "a revisiting."

Sen. Alan Solano, R-Rapid City, said the special session tried to address "a 25, 50-year issue." Solano encouraged a repeal date but ultimately voted no during the roll call.

Sen. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton, openly opposed the current bill Tuesday, just as he had during the special session. "We're talking about private property rights here," he said.

The Game, Fish and Parks Department had set "an abusive policy" for decades that favored sportsmen's use of the waters, Nelson said.

"What we've done is we've compromised people's private property rights," Nelson said. "These farmers and ranchers have every right to have say-so over their property."

At a glance

Here's the Senate roll call Tuesday on SB 24. It passed 26-9.

Yes — Cammack; Cronin; Ewing; Frerichs; Greenfield; Haverly; Heinert; Kennedy; Killer; Klumb; Kolbeck; Maher; Monroe; Nesiba; Netherton; Novstrup; Partridge; Rusch; Soholt; Stalzer; Sutton; Tapio; Tidemann; White; Wiik; and Youngberg.

No — Bolin; Curd; Jensen; Langer; Nelson; Otten; Peters; Russell; and Solano.