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State commission sides with Goose Lake homeowners in dispute

The South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks. (Republic file photo)

A couple from rural Codington County won approval Friday to close 26 acres of Goose Lake so they have private space around their house and buildings.

The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission voted 6-1 in favor of Jeff and Wendy Hanson. They essentially live on an island connected only by a township road.

The water is considered nonmeandered under South Dakota law. That means it is public water over privately owned land. State law says nonmeandered water is open to public use but gives the commission authority to decide in most instances whether parts can be closed.

Jeff Hanson told the commission he and his wife bought the land in 2005 and moved a house there in 2009. They didn't expect the shore anglers, boat anglers and ice fishermen who flocked to the lake in the years that followed.

The Hansons presented their situation to the commission Friday at the meeting in Rapid City.

"I think my case is pretty simple and straight-forward," Jeff Hanson said.

He described himself as an "avid" hunter and fisherman. Among evidence he submitted was a report showing calls through the years to the Codington County sheriff office. He said he also called the state Game, Fish and Parks Department at times.

Complaints included vehicles blocking the only public road to their house, sometimes as many as 30 or 40, he said. He spends time each day picking up litter left by sportsmen along the road and in winter on the ice. On occasion, he said, he's complained about over-bagging or harassing wildlife.

Hanson said he knew the Game, Fish and Parks Department had a waterfowl production area on the lake when he bought the land and there would be hunting. He didn't know the department would stock walleyes into the water four times from 2009 through 2016.

Roger Tellinghuisen, a former state attorney general now from Rapid City, represented the South Dakota Wildlife Federation as the only opponent to the Hansons' request.

Tellinghuisen quizzed Hanson for more than 20 minutes about photos and other details. Tellinghuisen introduced as evidence a GFP 2014 report that showed Goose Lake had been stocked with walleyes. The lake is 2,038 acres with 1,118 in the state production area.

Hanson said none of the sportsmen put up signs about littering or blocking the road. "We are the only house on Goose Lake where people live," he said. "Kind of unique in that regard."

Tellinghuisen said the Hansons' evidence didn't support "invasion of privacy" sufficiently to warrant restricting people from public water. Tellinghuisen said he was "sorry" ice fishermen weren't more respectful but called it "overkill" to totally grant the Hansons' request.

"We're not unreasonable people and we're not asking for anything unreasonable," Hanson said.

Hanson said the photos didn't reflect the frequency and numbers of boats when the fishing was good. He said ice fishing was the bigger problem. "And they do it day or night, leaving garbage behind in the process," he said.

"We just want a little buffer around the place where we live, where we are every day," he said.