Non-Meandered waters. What the heck is that? By Rep. Tim Goodwin

September 26, 02017
By Representative Tim Goodwin

Non meandered waters.  What the heck is that?  Well, summer’s over, fall is here and I need to start writing and reporting to you, my constituents, about what is going on in Pierre.  We were called in on June 12th for a special legislative session.  We heard rumblings of a special session being called, but weren’t notified until Thursday, Sept 8, to report at 10 am on Monday, Sept. 12.  So much for having a summer!  I had to send someone in my place on a bear hunt, but what the heck.

Of course the subject was non meandered waters.  So let me give you the Reader’s Digest condensed version of non meandered and meandered waters.  In our state, before statehood in 1889, surveyors had completed surveys on the majority of the state.  If a lake was less than forty acres, it was deemed non meandered, and ownership was the landowners.  These were mostly homesteaders who wanted water on their 160 acre plot (a quarter of a section).

If a body of water was more than 40 acres, it was deemed a lake and was considered state property.  Homesteads didn’t include any of these bodies of water.  A simpler was to understand how things were in 1889: non meandered was a slough, meandered a lake, with the 40 acres the criteria of which was which.  Clear as mud?

So, since 1889, a lot has happened.  During the dirty ‘30’s, all of the sloughs and many of the lakes dried up.  Some of them were even farmed.  Since then, there has been a steady climb in water tables.  The late 1980’s, ‘90’s and up until present time, many of these sloughs (non meandered waters) continued to expand.

Game, Fish, and Parks (GFP) used many of these sloughs to stock mostly walleye fry, mosquito size, for summer rearing ponds.  In the fall, they were seined and stocked in lakes.  Because it was impossible to get all of the fingerlings while seining, a lot of these sloughs became as good or better fisheries than lakes.  GFP even put boat ramps/docks on 26 of these sloughs at a taxpayer cost of approx. $260k per ramp.

In Day County (Webster), a couple of landowners sued the state and the lawsuit made it to the state supreme court.  The high court made a ruling on March 15, 2017.  (We ended our legislative session on March 10, 2017.)  The ruling stated that the landowner and sportsmen had equal rights to the non meandered sloughs, and it was up to the legislature to sort it out.  I’m not making this up!

On March 16, 2017, Gov. Daugaard ordered GFP to lock out all GFP boat ramps on these 26 sloughs.  They reluctantly put cables across all these boat ramps, stopping anyone from launching a boat.

Well, the impact to the economy around these lakes was catastrophic!  The town of Webster’s revenue was down 35%!  Many motels and bait shops were going under financially.

So we hauled it into Pierre to make a ruling about who can fish and hunt on the non meandering waters.  There was a hand-picked task force that met several times before June 12th and drafted a proposed bill.  So what now?

I stated during floor debate that I felt I was voting with the proverbial gun to my head because I can vote against more government all day long, but how could I vote against private business??  The governor refused to open thee boat ramps unless this bill, HB1001, was passed, so we passed it in both the House and the Senate.  We did add a sunset clause of June 30, 2018.  This means that the bill expires on that date.

I’ll keep you posted, as we are not done with HB1001 by a long shot!  Thank you  for giving me the opportunity to represent you in Pierre!

-Representative Tim R Goodwin, or 605-390-5324

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