On Monday, Nov/ 29 in the Clay County Courthouse, the Zoning Commissioner’s public hearing on land zoned as Natural Resource Conservation land to allow an 18 home development on a Wild and Scenic portion of the Missouri National Recreational River took place. The benefit for a few versus a loss for thousands.

This development proposal goes against current zoning laws. Natural Resource Conservation land considers the importance of riparian zones.

What’s a riparian zone? It is the area where the river or stream meets the land. In this floodplain, plants and wildlife have adapted and depend on the natural cycles of the river. The recreational and environmental benefits of riparian zones are seen through natural the groundwater protection and benefits to downstream properties. If homes are allowed to be developed in this riparian zone, non-point pollution from fertilized lawns on sandy soil, run-off from paved surfaces, light pollution, and noise pollution will affect various species of fish, wildlife and birds that depend on the riparian zone.

This section of the river bank in question is along a National Park; it is the face of Clay County. The University of South Dakota brings new students to show off the natural beauty of our county. Tourists come from all over to experience this spot unlike any in the country. They come to glimpse the Missouri River the way the Lewis and Clark Expedition did 115 years ago. From the dock at Clay County Park, we currently have a quiet specialness and peace unique to a wild and scenic river. It is where Native Americans come to drum and sing. As one elder told me, this is their living room.

There were no Native Americans at the public hearing to defend the Mn Sose, (Turbulent Water, the Lakota name for the Missouri River). Riprap along the banks as stabilization for the proposed development will affect the riparian zone immediately and for generations to come. The way this river weaves is the way nature intended it to flow, way before settlers arrived in our county.

I am surprised that the zoning administrator, Drew Gunderson (Drew.Gunderson@claycountysd.org) did not lead more discussion on the reasons behind the current Natural Resource Conservation land zoning. He did not discuss the riparian zone. His only comment was that the proposed development is able to pass ordinances for a river property development.

He failed to discuss, Why? Why go against this important part of zoning? We may be able to cross the T’s and dot the I’s in a proposal for a development, but Natural Resource Conservation land is important to our county now and for the future. Once it is developed, we cannot reclaim this natural state.

This short-sighted vision was apparent, especially when 4/5 of the zoning board members did not engage in any deliberation or discussion. Is it because they are acquaintances with the group proposing the development? One single board member, Jerry Prentice, pointed out there is more evidence for harm with this zoning change than the benefits it will offer. Drew Gunderson, Jay Bottolfson, Marty Gilbertson, Joe Hubert and Travis Mockler did not engage in a discussion of the pros and cons.

By going against the current zoning designation, we all lose. The general public loses the quiet open space offered at Clay County Park, the historians lose a part of the Lewis and Clark Trail, Native Americans lose another part of their living room.

The beaver will lose the cottonwood trees used for food and homes, the osprey, eagles and owls lose this area for nesting and hunting. Lost is habitat for the migrating birds, and the river fish that depend on the sloughing banks to provide places to find their food and lays eggs for increased paddlefish and sturgeon production.

Homeowners in a county adjacent to a National Park have increased resale value. My satisfaction living in a county which prizes its natural resources adds to my quality of life here. Don’t diminish the treasure of the Missouri River for us all for a benefit of a few.

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