PIERRE | South Dakota’s laws on non-meandered public waters over private lands should run until lawmakers decide to change them, the state Senate decided Wednesday.
The Legislature had passed the laws June 12 at a special session. Lawmakers decided that day the laws should end this June 30 unless they took further action.
Senators resolved the matter Wednesday. They voted 20 to 15 to simply remove the date.
That marked final legislative action. The House of Representatives had voted 51-12 for it Jan. 25. HB 1081 now goes to Gov. Dennis Daugaard for review. He likely will sign it into law.
State Game, Fish & Parks Secretary Kelly Hepler supported the bill Tuesday on behalf of Daugaard at a Senate committee hearing. Rep. Larry Rhoden and Sen. Gary Cammack sponsored it. They are Republicans from Union Center.
Cammack said the laws passed last summer were “far from perfect,” but he added that proposals could be offered if the expiration date wasn’t a distraction.
Two other Republicans, Alan Solano of Rapid City and Deb Soholt of Sioux Falls, suggested senators should consider the governor’s bill that called for the laws to run until June 30, 2021. The Senate passed SB 24 on Feb. 13 but the House hasn’t voted.
Sen. Jason Frerichs, D-Wilmot, said he wanted certainty for GF&P in working on longer-range agreements with landowners. “I ask for support today,” he said in support of the Rhoden-Cammack bill.
Sen. Neal Tapio, R-Watertown, said it seemed important last summer to set a one-year repeal. The original special-session bill had proposed a June 30, 2021, repeal.
“I’ve come to the conclusion we need to give Game, Fish & Parks a chance in this situation,” Tapio said.
Sen. Jeff Partridge, R-Rapid City, proposed the amendment last year setting the 2018 repeal. He supported the governor’s bill this year after a third approach failed. “We should go back to the (2021) plan,” Partridge said.
Sen. Troy Heinert, D-Mission, said removing the expiration date would allow more solutions to be tried. He said there wasn’t necessarily one right answer.
“We have a sunset every year. It’s called the legislative session,” he said.
Sen. Bob Ewing, R-Spearfish, said removing the date would give GF&P the freedom to work on agreements.
Sen. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton, spoke against the Rhoden-Cammack approach. Nelson said farmers and ranchers weren’t allowed to drain water from their lands and now had to accept recreational water users.
“And that’s unacceptable to this South Dakota country-boy,” Nelson said.