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House panel backs Daugaard on non-meandered water plan

PIERRE -- Gov. Dennis Daugaard is one step away from final approval by the Legislature of his proposal to extend South Dakota's new laws on uses of non-meandered waters until July 1, 2021.

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PIERRE - Gov. Dennis Daugaard is one step away from final approval by the Legislature of his proposal to extend South Dakota’s new laws on uses of non-meandered waters until July 1, 2021.

SB 24 received support from 14 organizations and faced zero opposition Monday morning in the House State Affairs committee.

Panel members voted 11-1 to recommend the full House of Representatives approve it, possibly as early as Tuesday afternoon.

“Looks like we’ve plowed the ground sufficiently in the past,” remarked Rep. Larry Rhoden, R-Union Center. He is committee chairman.

The laws otherwise expire June 30.

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Two people testified for the governor’s bill: State Game, Fish and Parks Secretary Kelly Hepler, representing the governor; and Michael Held, lobbyist for the South Dakota Farm Bureau.

Held distributed the letter from the groups supporting it.

The Legislature met in special session last June after a South Dakota Supreme Court ruling said neither landowners nor recreational users had a superior right to the waters.

The justices said the water belongs to the public but sits atop private land. They said the Legislature needed to decide the matter.

A special legislative committee held meetings to research the issue and state lawmakers met June 12 for the special session. Rhoden proposed the bill, which carried a repeal date of June 30, 2021.

But Sen. Jeff Partridge, R-Rapid City, amended Rhoden’s bill so the laws would expire June 30, 2018. The Senate stood with him and forced the House to accept Partridge’s version.

The Senate however voted 26-9 on Feb. 13 to accept the governor’s proposed change. The approval came one day after Sen. Jim White, R-Huron, fell short trying to get the Senate to agree to debate his proposal.

White wanted to substantially rewrite parts of the June law. Partridge said after the Feb. 13 vote that he decided to support the governor’s extension after White’s bill went down.

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The Legislature in June identified a list of waters that must remain open to the public because of historical use but said landowners could ask the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission to close other waters.

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