STATE SUPREME COURT REVERSES PARKS V. COOPER DECISION
(Pierre)- Today the South Dakota Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision in Parks v. Cooper, reversed a circuit court decision concerning Long Lake, Parks Slough and Schiley Slough. The Fifth Circuit Court had ruled that when the lake beds are private, the waters above those beds are also private.
The State’s highest court ruled that all water in South Dakota belongs to the people in accord with the public trust doctrine which imposes obligation on the State to preserve water for public use. It provides that the people of the State own the waters themselves, and that the State, not as a proprietor, but as a trustee, controls the water for the benefit of the public.
The injunction imposed by the circuit court prohibits the public from using these lakes. The Supreme Court has left the injunction in place until the circuit court has had the opportunity to address the high court’s instructions.