The tempestuous case for public stream access in Utah is headed back to the state Supreme Court on Monday. And following a multi-year long battle between the Utah Stream Access Coalition (USAC) and private entities, a finish line now appears to be within reach.
"It’s been a grassroots explosion that’s brought everybody into the room to argue for their constitutional rights to access and fish these rivers," says USAC Director, Chris Barkey. "If you value your state constitution, it’s up to all of us to make sure it’s followed when legislation is passed. That’s our goal here.”
The 5,000-member coalition has been pushing for an "amicable, permanent legislative solution" since 2010, using the legal process to ensure anglers can access rivers from a public right of way, and can then fish those same waters through stretches of private property, as long as they remain below an established high-water mark.
Utah's constitution agrees. It says that the public owns both the water and the ability to access it via easements. Opponents, on the other hand, including the State of Utah and a coalition tied to the Utah Farm Bureau, say the right of private property owners to control what happens on their land should prevail.
The high court will have the last word. Oral arguments in both the Public Waters (Provo) and Navigability (Weber) cases will be heard back-to-back on January 9. Says the USAC, "This is the end of the road for the two lawsuits we won in 2015."
USAC members and all stream-access advocates are encouraged to attend the final arguments. Plan to be seated before the court convenes at 9:30 a.m.