South Dakota's major agricultural groups have a few suggestions for the state's watershed task force.
While the ag groups don't all support the five concepts presented during a meeting of the state's Regional Watershed Advisory Task Force on July 1 at the Best Western Ramkota Hotel, they all agree that the state needs to improve its drainage laws.
Creating water management districts was a recurring theme at the meeting. The concept is backed by the South Dakota Corn Growers Association, South Dakota Farm Bureau, South Dakota Farmers Union and South Dakota Soybean Association.
Water management districts would be similar to existing water development districts, but would have authority to resolve drainage controversies, said Jay Gilbertson, manager of the East Dakota Water Development District. Water development districts promote conservation, development and proper management of resources within their respective boundaries, according to state law. But they don't get involved in disputes as proposed water management districts would.
Resolving drainage disagreements is a growing concern in South Dakota as more and more counties are disbanding their drainage boards.
Duane Sutton, chairman of the Brown County commission, told task force members that the county's drainage board was dissolved a couple year ago because there was nothing in state law that allowed its decisions to be enforced. And, he said, if the drainage board denied a project and a resident or group went ahead with it anyhow, there was nothing in state law to address that matter aside from going to court, he said.
Other counties have done the same and don't want to take those duties back, said Brad Preheim, manager of the Vermillion Basin Water Development District.
The task force is still gathering information that will be used to craft suggested bills that will be introduced at next year's legislative session. So conservation districts, cooperatives and ag groups have been gathering information from constituents to pass along to the task force.
Aside from the creation of water management districts, other ideas discussed include:
·A mandatory mediation of drainage disputes that's backed by the state's conservation districts, cooperatives, the Corn Growers, Farm Bureau, Farmers Union and the Soybean Association.
Now, there is no like way to mediate drainage problems in the state.
·Standardization disclosure of new drainage projects: conservation districts, cooperatives, Corn Growers, Farm Bureau, Farmers Union, Soybean Association.
·Identifying water management resources: conservation districts, cooperatives, Corn Growers, Farm Bureau, Farmers Union, Soybean Association.
·Funding best-practice, drainage-related resources: conservation districts, cooperatives, Corn Growers, Farm Bureau, Soybean Association.
State Rep. Dennis Feickert, D-Aberdeen, a member of the task force, said the group doesn't yet have a defined direction. He said many details have to be worked out, but that he feels better after the July 1 discussion about the creation of water management districts than he did beforehand. There are still questions about how counties and existing water development districts would be impacted under the concept of water management districts, he said.
Follow @ScottReports on Twitter.