The Coalition brought this case to confirm the navigability and public ownership of the bed of the Weber River. The Coalition contends that the Weber is a “navigable river” because it has long served as a highway for public commerce and recreation. The beds of navigable rivers are public property up to the ordinary high water mark, and adjoining private property owners may not interfere with the public’s right to use the river corridor for lawful recreational purposes. A ruling that the Weber is navigable will restore public access to this river and will lay the groundwork for similar rulings on other Utah rivers.
|Utah Supreme Court affirms Third District Court Judge Kelly’s 2015 ruling that the Weber River was used for commerce prior to statehood, and that the evidence of this use was “sufficient to establish navigability of the river where it crosses the property at issue in this case.” In so doing, the USC affirmed that the river’s beds and banks “where it crosses the property at issue in this case” should be open to lawful public use. Read opinion here.
PRESS RELEASE; November 22, 2017; Salt Lake City, Utah
USAC Prevails in Weber Case
Today is an historic day for Utahans and, in particular, the members of USAC. This afternoon, the Utah Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of the Utah Stream Access Coalition and confirmed that the Weber River is navigable where it crosses over the “one-mile stretch” of landowner defendant’s properties.
In the decision, the Court acknowledged the statehood-era use of the Weber River to float logs from the headwaters in the Uinta Mountains downstream to Echo where they were taken out and used for commercial purposes such as construction of railroads, prop timbers for Park City mines, saw timbers and cordwood. “We conclude that there was sufficient evidence to support the district court’s determination that the relevant stretch of the Weber River was commercially useful on a regular basis, and not merely in an occasional season of high water. And we deem that evidence sufficient to establish navigability of the river where it crosses the property at issue in this case.”
In recognizing the utility of log drives to determine navigability, the door is open to apply this standard to other similar-sized and useful rivers throughout the state. USAC looks forward to these future discussions with the state to address the status of these waters. Please give the state time to digest the decisions and issue appropriate guidance to anglers as to where they can and can’t fish before you grab your rod and reel.
When the time does come, we want to remind you of these very important points:
-Please respect private property.
-Pick up trash if you see it.
-Stay below the ordinary high-water mark, and never, ever trespass to get on or off the water.
This is a resource that belongs to all of us, and it’s of utmost importance that we be impeccable stewards of that resource. Don’t be that guy (or gal) that undoes all we’ve worked for.
Many, many individuals contributed to fighting for our rights, and we thank you for what you’ve done. In particular, we express our deep gratitude to our counsel on this case, Cullen Battle and Craig Coburn, who masterfully wove the history and the law into a strong, cohesive cloth.
Finally, while this is a significant win, we are still awaiting the final ruling in the Public Waters/Provo case. We expect that ruling in the near future, and will update you with further information as we receive it. The legislative session starts in January, and may very well be an active one for us. Now would be a perfect time to get in touch with your legislators before the busy season begins.
We thank you for your continued support. We hope that you will join us in celebrating this victory. Give thanks, reflect on what we’ve been able to accomplish, and look forward to the things to come.