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Glad you asked: Is the private boat lift in a public Lake Mitchell access point legal?

Q: Is the city of Mitchell doing anything about a private boat lift recently installed in the Lake Mitchell access area near the Sportsman's Club on Indian Village Road?...

A private boat lift sits in Lake Mitchell at the public access area near the Sportsman's Club on Indian Village Road. (Evan Hendershot/Republic)
A private boat lift sits in Lake Mitchell at the public access area near the Sportsman's Club on Indian Village Road. (Evan Hendershot/Republic)

Q: Is the city of Mitchell doing anything about a private boat lift recently installed in the Lake Mitchell access area near the Sportsman's Club on Indian Village Road?

A: Due to a lack of legal guidelines in the Mitchell City Code, the city of Mitchell has referred the issue of the private boat lift to the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks.

Currently, a green boat lift sits in the bay, a location one resident said is a quality source of fish habitat and is often used for swimming. On Friday, several people were swimming in the area near the recently-installed boat lift.

According to City Attorney Justin Johnson, there are no regulations in city code that would bar a resident from installing a private boat launch in an area not directly adjacent to their property. But the GF&P does have five regulations to determine whether a boat lift or dock can be installed at the area of public access.

The GF&P authorized placement guidelines, no person may place or construct a dock, floating dock or boat lift in or on public water unless the landowner has property that adjoins the public water, the person receives written permission from a landowner whose property adjoins the public water and if the dock or lift owner has signed a concession or lease agreement.

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The authorized placement guidelines also state "any dock or floating dock may not be placed so it prohibits public access to waters or shoreline areas accessible to the public under existing state law."

A local official with the state GF&P did not immediately respond to multiple calls about the legality of installing a private boat lift at the public access area.

But whoever owns the boat lift - who The Daily Republic attempted to contact - may be in luck.

The Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee's agenda for Tuesday's regular 4 p.m. meeting at the Mitchell Recreation Center includes a discussion on a public dock program, an idea that routinely resurfaces every few years in Mitchell.

In 2004, Lake Mitchell boaters spoke of installing a marina at the lake in one of the lake's bays, but the marina idea fizzled out. And in 2011, the City Council approved a study to install nine new docks for non-residents, but nothing came of the plan.

Three years later, the lake board proposed a plan to allow anyone who lives within 30 miles of city limits to apply for a section of shoreline between the Sportsman's Club and a nearby boat ramp at a cost of $300 for locals and $400 for non-residents. Like previous plans, the 2014 discussions led to no public dock program.

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