SALT LAKE CITY, UT – The Utah Supreme Court (the Court) will hear an additional round of oral arguments in one of the two appeals of district court decisions in which the trial courts ruled in favor of the Utah Stream Access Coalition (USAC), and its efforts to restore the public’s right to lawfully use all of waters of the State, regardless of who owns the beds over which they flow. Both appeals were previously argued before the Court in January.
This additional round of oral arguments will allow the Court to consider several fundamental questions regarding the right of the public to use their resource – the publicly owned waters of the State – and the responsibilities of the State to manage this public resource for the benefit of the public; questions that were raised in a Supplemental Briefing Order (SBO) issued by the Court on March 10, 2017. The briefing and argument were also requested following the second of two recusals from the bench.
Ultimately, the USAC is asking the Court to affirm a 4th District Court ruling from November 2015 that found the “Public Waters Access Act” of 2010 to be unconstitutional on a number of grounds. The Act, contrary to its title, effectively disposed of the public’s right to use over 2,700 miles, or about 43%, of Utah’s fishable rivers and streams where they flow over privately-owned beds, many miles of which have benefited from publicly-funded projects for habitat improvement, stream bank restoration, and flood abatement. The district court decision briefly re-opened all of Utah’s rivers and streams to public use prior to being stayed by the Court, pending appeal.
The defendants, including an exclusive real estate development on the Provo River – and the State of Utah – appealed the district court ruling to the Court in 2015, supported by a private property rights advocacy group as a ‘friend-of-the-court.’
USAC expects that the Court will adhere to its own precedent and affirm the trial courts’ rulings in favor of the public’s access/use rights. The final rulings, expected later this year, come at a time when the future of access and use of much of the public lands in Utah and the West remains uncertain.
“As we move into the final phase of this long legal battle, the USAC remains optimistic that the Utah Supreme Court will again rule in favor of the public’s right to lawfully access and use State waters,” said Coalition President, Kris Olson. “It’s about affirming the rights and honoring the heritage of all Utahns today, and for generations to come; not disposing of our public resources to private interests or the highest bidder.”
The Court will hear these supplemental oral arguments at the Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City at 0930 on Wednesday, June 14, 2017.
Chris Barkey, Director
Kris Olson, President
The Mission of the Utah Stream Access Coalition is to promote and assist in all aspects of restoring and preserving public access to, and lawful use of, Utah’s public waters and streambeds.
The USAC is an all-volunteer, grassroots, 501(c)4 nonprofit corporation,
with over 5,000 members in and out of Utah.
Utah Stream Access Coalition, P.O. Box 91154, Salt Lake City, UT 84109