This was bad news to receive last night. Very unfortunate. However, the fight goes on! A very different strategy moving forward, most likely. Navigability will make folks upset!
Utah Supreme Court Allows Public Waters Access Act to Stand
Yesterday, the Utah Supreme Court issued a decision ending a thirteen-year effort by the Utah Stream Access Coalition to overturn the Public Waters Access Act of 2010 (the “PWAA”) and restore public access to Utah’s non-navigable rivers and streams.
The Court ruled that the public’s access to these waterways, which the PWAA took away, is not rooted in or protected by the Utah State Constitution. Accordingly, the PWAA will stand.
While we are disappointed in the decision, we remain steadfast and measured in our mission. The decision ends only one of several avenues by which we aim to restore public access to Utah’s rivers and streams. See our press release we distributed yesterday.
We will continue our efforts to have the State identify navigable streams and declare them open to public recreational use, as it did successfully on the upper Weber River in 2017. We will continue to advocate for the repeal and/or amendment of the PWAA, which, contrary to its name, restricts the public’s ability to recreate on over 2,700 miles of non-navigable rivers and streams within the state that comprise some 43% of Utah’s fishable waterways.
We strongly encourage all USAC members, and members of the public who are troubled by this turn of events, to contact their Utah State Legislators (Representative and Senator) to explain what the loss of public recreational access to Utah’s public natural resources means to them, and to voice their disapproval of the wholesale privatization of such public natural resources, as made possible the PWAA.
You can easily find the name, address and telephone numbers of your Legislators by entering your address in the Utah Legislature’s Who represents me? – Legislative Map webpage. Please let your voice be heard.
Stay tuned for more information. Thank you, as always, for your continued support.
Board of Directors
Utah Stream Access Coalition
I think I understand and agree with what you mean but could clarify that last bit? Just want to make sure I'm getting it right.Navigability will make folks upset!
Yep, and it will be more expensive too. (Reminder to self to send a donation in.)However, the fight goes on! A very different strategy moving forward, most likely. Navigability will make folks upset!
I don’t think the SCOTUS is interested in taking one of its precious few cases taken to resolve whether an Utah statute violates the Utah constitution. Usually you need a much more broad issue of federal relevance to even get them to consider granting cert. I would be shocked if it was heard by the SCOTUS.You don't think so? Issues around public access and navigable waters are grounded in federal law, so it seems it would fall under their jurisdiction to issue a ruling. At least forcing states to define navigability would be a step in one direction or the other.
And herein lies the rub.....If the state makes a list of navigable waters, the owners that have believed up until that time they owned the stream bed will lose title to those beds. I’m certainly not saying this should not happen, as I think it should. Just articulating what may be on giant concern for the powers that be in doing so.
That’s why I said I think the state will hide behind the courts. Let lawsuits declare navigability and the courts will be the ones to decide. Long, expensive, wasteful process, for sure.
Fair enough. Reword my previous statement like this:If you’re talking federal navigability, we already have that definition. That has been litigated and defined in federal courts and was the basis for the Weber River ruling a few years ago stating the section in question was navigable.
We don’t really need a definition, we need determinations.
could there be a way to get the SCOTUS to force the states to set determinations for navigable rivers/streams?