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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Feds Fail to Enforce River Law: Time for SD to Act!

Rebecca Terk points out we have our own need for some Arizona-style, federal-authority-usurping legislation right here in South Dakota. She noted that on the Missouri River near her home, people break the law regularly by running jet skis in the restricted waters of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968. The National Park Service banned personal watercraft from WSRA-designated stretches of the Missouri in 2000, citing damage to wildlife, oil pollution, conflict with other more mellow recreationists, noise pollution (hear hear!), and high accident and injury rates. But the jetskiers keep rop-rop-roaring along the protected waterway in flagrant violation of federal law.

Terk says she has contacted the local heat to go after these lawbreakers. Their response: yup, they're illegal, but we can't touch 'em. Only a federal agent can enforce federal law, and the National Park Service hasn't even stationed a ranger in the area.

Well, who are we to let a little thing like federal jurisdiction stop us from enforcing the laws of the land? South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley is filing a friend of the court brief supporting Arizona's effort to usurp federal authority on immigration law. AG Jackley justifies our state's involvement by saying illegal immigration "is really a public safety issue." GOP House candidate Kristi Noem favors expanding state government power to enforce laws when the feds fail to do so.

When the 2011 South Dakota Legislature gets on its high horse and puts off working on the budget to pass grandstanding legislation on immigration (and they're already chomping at the bit to do so), they should consider expanding any such proposal to a general declaration that South Dakota's sheriffs, city cops, Highway Patrol, and game wardens will gladly enforce any law that the federal government isn't... including the ban on jet skis on the Missouri downstream from Yankton.

After all, our support for Arizona's immigration law isn't just about those darned Mexicans. It's about our unwavering support for the rule of law and strong government... right?

Bonus Fun Fact: Congressman John Thune was outraged when this ban was announced in 2000. He demanded the National Park Service reopen the issue for public comment. NPS did so. 82% of the folks who commented supported the ban.


  1. Well if it is so important to SD residents maybe SD should pass a law that mirrors the Federal law. (Like in AZ did) Then the state can enforce it. Question is do you you think the Feds will sue the state of SD for enforcing it?

  2. I wouldn't say that I contacted the local authorities to "crack down," but rather to inquire as to whether the law was still in place, and why (if it was in place) it wasn't being enforced.

    A very big part of me would rather not see the authorities on the river regularly--we've already had a number of incidents in the past few years wherein folks (usually those without the expensive power boats) who were doing nothing wrong, but perhaps looking a bit raggedy, were closely questioned about their activities and their watercraft.

    I personally had to shout at GF&P personnel to stay away from my dog, who regularly swims from the Clay County Park dock to the island directly across from it--they apparently assumed I was going to allow my dog to drown--when it was their interference (pulling alongside with their boat, calling to her, and confusing her) that was the real problem.

    So, my feelings are really mixed here. I want the river to be a bit "wild" both in terms of its natural course and in the lack of constant patrols and presence of authorities--I just wish people with jet skis would obey the law and go elsewhere--or better yet, borrow, build, or buy a kayak and learn to enjoy that stretch of river without the loud noises and oil-stench.

  3. Indeed, my feelings are mixed, too. I like enjoying the wilderness without jetskis, ATVs, or government agents intruding on the solitude I enjoy in my kayak or tent or on my bicycle. Is there a way we can educate the two-stroke jockeys to respect the law and the general welfare without resorting to increased presence of law enforcement? How do we get people to realize they can fully enjoy nature with no more powerful motor than their two arms and legs?

  4. Why would we have to pass a law that is already on the books.

    I'm not in law enforcement and not up on who can do what. Why can't locals enforce the law that is already in place. It is still a law, they are law enforcement personnel, wouldn't it be better for all that locals take care of this issue rather than bringing in outsiders or increasing government even more.

    As an example, possessing marijuana is against federal law, yet the DEA aren't the only ones who are allowed to arrest you for it.

  5. Care to ask Arizona that question, Jim?

  6. Yeah, lets ask AZ that question. There answer would be: "BECAUSE THE FEDS ARE NOT ENFORCING THE FEDERAL LAW!!"

    In Jim's analogy it would be like the DEA not enforcing drug laws and the state did not have the power to.

    Just like you stupid jet-ski analogy.

  7. Now, now, no need to start calling each other stupid.

    But so I'm clear: you, Aaron, would support stronger state enforcement of federal regulations on personal watercraft, right? Because the law is the law, right?

  8. I meant to say "your" not "you" on my last comment.

    Yes, IF our state government feels that the people of SD need this law and IF SD passes a law that mirrors the federal jet-ski law and is constitutional then yes the state should enforce it.

  9. Ah, so your interest in state's ability to enforce federal law depends entirely on our perception of whether a law is needed or not, not whether the law is indeed the law of the land. Are we doing rule of law or rule of men here? Doesn't sound very constitutional to me....

  10. I can see how you got that from my response. However, my main point is the Feds have failed in their duty to enforce the law. The reason I say the state needs to pass a law first mirroring the Federal law is not because its up to our state to decide what law should be enforced but the fact that "the local heat" currently is unable to enforce the federal law and the feds are not enforcing it. How do you give the local authorities the ability to enforce the federal law?

    Your article says "yup, they're
    illegal, but we can't touch 'em. Only a federal agent can enforce federal law, and the National Park Service hasn't even stationed a ranger in the area."

    So the question is why isn't the local heat able to enforce the Federal law? Why weren't AZ police able to ask for ID?

    As long as the Federal law falls with in the original intent of the US constitution then yes the state should enforce it.


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