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Bill Dealing With Floodwater Fight Fails In Senate Committee

March 6, 2014, 6:59 AM by Erich Schaffhauser

Bill Dealing With Floodwater Fight Fails In Senate Committee
PIERRE, SD -

A floodwater fight continues in the state, and a bill that didn't pass in Pierre Tuesday is proof.

With excess moisture, especially in northeast South Dakota within the past couple decades, bodies of water now cover private land.

Several flooded property owners are saying it's their land and people without permission should stay off of it. Others say if floodwater reaches the road, they have the right to go on that water and use it regardless of who owns land beneath.

House Bill 1208 attempted to tackle much less than some previous bills dealing with flooded land. It still unanimously failed in a Senate committee.

The bill would have prohibited people from operating a motorized vehicle or any combustion engine on a non-meandered lake within 660 feet of confined livestock or an occupied building. Non-meandered lakes are bodies of water that weren't identified by the United States surveyor general, according to the bill.

"This is the product of my conversations with people on both sides and this is an area where I found there to be common ground," Rep. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, said.

But Greenfield heard plenty of opposition to the idea in committee Tuesday. Mike Shaw represents landowners.

"By excluding combustion engines from within 660 feet of dwellings and livestock, the legislature would actually be allowing all other activities within this area and allowing all activities beyond that 660 ft," Shaw said.

Shaw argues the public shouldn't have the right to navigate that water in the first place. Others disagree if the water extends to a public right of way.

Tony Leif with South Dakota Department of Game, Fish & Parks says it's up to state legislators to decide but that hasn't been done.

"So there is no definite answer on whether or not a person can or cannot go onto those public trust resource waters," Leif said.

One concerned landowner with flooded property in Day County says the issue has been going on so long his hair has changed color since he first came to Pierre to talk about it.

"As much as we get frustrated with the issue, we can't let that frustration ultimately end with the desire to just avoid the issue because it's only going to continue to be more real," Sen. Jason Frerichs, D-Wilmot, said.

Sen. Shantel Krebs, R-Renner, says it might come down to courts sorting out more of these water issues through lawsuits.

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