AP NEWS

Utah Supreme Court to hear stream access case

January 5, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah Supreme Court will once again take up the issue of whether anglers and outdoor enthusiasts can use rivers and streams that run through private property.

The state’s high court will hear two cases on the matter Monday and decide if it agrees with two lower court decisions that river and stream access should be kept open, reported The Deseret News (http://bit.ly/2hSxfHy ).

“It’s a difficult issue that not everybody agrees river by river on,” said Chris Barkey, director of the Utah Stream Access Coalition. “But Utah’s constitution says the public owns the water and there should be access.”

One of the district court rulings came after the Utah Stream Access Coalition successfully challenged a 2010 state law that put new restrictions on water access by requiring anglers to get property owners’ permission if they leave the water and touch land. The judge ruled that the law essentially cut off access to 43 percent of the state’s rivers and streams.

In the other case, a district judge granted the public access to a stretch of the Weber River in Summit County in what some critics called “judicial activism.”

The state of Utah and a coalition involving the Utah Farm Bureau have opposed the rulings, saying they infringe on the rights of private property owners to control what happens on their land.

“I believe the district courts erred and hope that the Utah Supreme Court reverses those decisions,” said Randy Parker, chief executive officer of the Utah Farm Bureau. “This would set a horrible precedent and have a dramatic impact on private property rights.”

Many states allow public access to streams and rivers, regardless of whether the water is navigable and regardless of who owns the stream bed. Colorado, however, says the surface of the water belongs to the person who owns the stream bed.

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Information from: Deseret News, http://www.deseretnews.com