Friday, June 13, 2014

Public Meeting Concerning the Proposed Determination Within the Ash Creek Division

The Utah Division of Water Rights has set a public meeting to discuss the proposed determination of water rights within the Ash Creek Division of the Virgin River Drainage (Book 81-3). The following information is from the public meeting notice:

What: Public Meeting
Who: Water Users within the Ash Creek area (i.e., Town of Kanarraville, Town of New Harmony, City of Toquerville, and the City of Laverkin)
When: July 1, 2014, 6:00 - 7:00 PM
Where: Hurricane Valley Library, 36 South 300 West, Hurricane, Utah
Purpose: In accordance with Chapter 73-4, Utah Code Annotated, and the Fifth Judicial District Court (Civil No. 800507596), the State Engineer is authorized and ordered to conduct a general determination of the rights to the use of all water, both surface and underground, within the drainage area of the Ash Creek Division of the Virgin River drainage area in Washington and Iron Counties.
Efforts are currently underway and over the past few months, representatives of the Division of Water Rights have worked in the Ash Creek area to survey existing water use, contact water users, and review the water rights of record. In light of this work, the public is invited to a Public Meeting. Representatives from the Division of Water Rights will be available during this time to discuss the adjudication process, review water rights within the area, and answer questions.
If individuals cannot attend, but have questions regarding the adjudication process or water rights within the Ash Creek area; please contact Blake Bingham at (801) 538-7345.

Agenda:
1. Introduction Blake Bingham, P.E. - Adjudication Program Manager
2. Adjudication Process Presentation
3. Public Comments & Questions

For more information on the meeting, click here.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Public Meeting Concerning the Propoosed Determination Within the Orem Subdivision

The Utah Division of Water Rights has set a public meeting to discuss the proposed determination of water rights within the Orem Subdivision of the Provo River Division in the Utah Lake / Jordan River Drainage (Area No. 55, Book 3). The following information is from the public meeting notice:

What: Public Meeting
Who: Water Users within the Orem Area (i.e., City of Orem, Town of Vineyard, portions of Provo City located north or west of the Provo River, and the southern portion of Lindon City)
When: May 13, 2014, 4:00 - 5:00 PM
Where: Central Utah Water Conservancy District, 355 West University Parkway, Orem, UT 84058
Purpose: In accordance with Chapter 73-4, Utah Code Annotated, and the Third Judicial District Court (Civil No. 360057298), the State Engineer is authorized and ordered to conduct a general determination of the rights to the use of all water, both surface and underground, within the drainage area of the Orem Subdivision, Provo River Division, of the Utah Lake and Jordan River Area in Utah County.
Efforts are currently underway and over the past few months, representatives of the Division of Water Rights have worked in the Orem Area to survey existing water use, contact water users, and review the water rights of record. In light of this work, the public is invited to a Public Meeting. Representatives from the Division of Water Rights will be available during this time to discuss the adjudication process, review water rights within the area, and answer questions.
If individuals cannot attend, but have questions regarding the adjudication process or water rights within the Orem Area; please contact Blake Bingham at (801) 538-7345.

Agenda:
1. Introduction Blake Bingham, P.E. - Adjudication Program Manager
2. Adjudication Process Presentation
3. Public Comments & Questions

For more information on the meeting, click here.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Central Utah Water Conservancy District v. Jensen

In 2011, the Utah Supreme Court issued its opinion in the Jensen v. Jones, in which the Court held that the State Engineer could not consider alleged forfeiture in determining whether or not to grant a change application.  The Court did not, however, determine whether the water right owned by Jensen had actually been forfeited. 

A few months after the Court's decision, Central Utah Water Conservancy District ("CUWCD") initiated a separate lawsuit in district court against Jensen seeking to have Jensen's water right declared forfeited.  On March 12, 2014, the district court issued a ruling in which the court concluded that the Jensen water right was forfeited for nonuse.

The district court first addressed Jensen's argument that CUWCD should be estopped from bringing the forfeiture action because a lawsuit alleging forfeiture should have been brought before Jensen spent significant time and money pursuing the change application.  Although the court acknowledged these costs, the court concluded that the legal standard of "manifest injustice" had not been met and that Jensen had not materially altered their course of conduct based on the CUWCD's alleged inaction.  The court also noted that the doctrine of beneficial use was established to protect the public and Utah's limited resource of water, and therefore it was in the public interest to allow CUWCD to pursue its forfeiture claim.

The court next addressed the primary issue of whether the Jensen water right had been forfeited.  The court focused primarily on Jensen's inability to produce any documents, records, or evidence that she or her predecessors had beneficially used the water right for at least 25 years, as well as prior acknowledgments that no beneficial use had occurred.  Although Jensen urged the court to balance the requirement of beneficial use of water against the public policy of protecting property rights, the court declined to do so, concluding that Utah Code section 73-1-4 did not require or allow any such balancing.  The court also rejected Jensen's arguments that forfeiture should not apply due to alleged unavailability of water in the source and due to the pending change application.

It is currently unknown if Jensen will appeal this decision.  If the ruling stands, it will surely result in an end to the still-pending case regarding the State Engineer's denial of the change application.  It is also unknown to what extent, if any, this ruling may have on future legislative considerations of legislation relating to the State Engineer's authority to review beneficial use and nonuse in the context of a change application.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Public Meeting Concerning a Groundwater Management Plan for Moab / Spanish Valley

The Utah Division of Water Rights has set a public meeting to discuss the process for developing a groundwater management plan for the Moab / Spanish Valley area. The following information is from the public meeting notice:

What: Public Meeting Who: Moab / Spanish Valley water users
When: April 16, 2014, 3:00 PM
Where: Grand Center of Moab, 182 North 500 West, Moab, UT 84532
Purpose: The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the process for developing a groundwater management plan for Moab / Spanish Valley. Personnel from the Division of Water Rights will be available to take all questions and comments provided by the general public and interested parties.
Agenda:
1. Welcome and Introduction - Kent Jones, State Engineer
2. Current Policy for Moab / Spanish Valley – Dave Horsley, Assistant Regional Engineer
3. Ground Water Management Plans and Spanish Valley Hydrologic Data – Jim Reese
4. What are the Next Steps – Marc Stilson, Regional Engineer
5. Public Questions/Comments

For more information about the public meeting, click here.

Friday, February 28, 2014

2014 Legislature: Canal Safety Amendments

Representative Johnny Anderson has introduced House Bill 370 (HB 370), entitled "Canal Safety Amendments."  The bill would require the State Engineer to make and maintain an inventory list of all open canal/ditch systems in the state.  For each system, the list would include the alignment of the canals and ditches, the contact information for the owner, the maximum flow of the system, whether the system is used for storm water management, and whether a management plan has been adopted for the system.  The bill would allow the State Engineer to contract with the Utah Association of Conservation Districts to perform these duties, and would require the State Engineer to contract with the Association to provide technical support to canal owners who are adopting a management plan.  The bill would also modify the definition of a "water conveyance facility."  Current law exempts fully piped pressurized systems from the definition, but this bill would also exempt fully piped systems that are not pressurized.

To read a full copy of the bill, as amended, click here.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

2014 Legislature: Water Conveyance Facilities Amendments

Representative Carol Moss has introduced House Bill 298 (HB 298), entitled "Water Conveyance Facilities Amendments." This bill makes only one change to existing canal safety laws, which is that it exempts ditch systems that carry less than 15 cubic feet per second (cfs) from the canal safety requirements.

To read the full text of the bill, as introduced, click here.

Monday, January 27, 2014

2014 Legislative Preview: Public Trust

Representative Kay McIff has introduced House Bill 233 (H.B. 233), entitled "Public Trust Obligations and Water Rights Protections."  This bill seeks to define the scope and limits of the public trust doctrine in Utah. The bill also clarifies that a water right is a property right that is protected by the Utah Constitution, and cannot be taken for public use without just compensation.

This bill is nearly identical to HB 68 that Representative McIff ran in 2013.

To read the full text of the bill, click here.

Monday, January 20, 2014

2014 Legislative Preview: County Recorder Water Index

Representative Curt Webb will introduce House Bill 29 (HB 29), entitled "County Recorder Index Amendments."  The bill only makes one change to the statute defining the duties of the county recorders: it requires the county recorders to keep an index of water right numbers that are included in deeds after May 13, 2014.

To read the full text of the bill, as introduced, click here.

Update: This bill was passed on February 24, 2014, and will now go to Governor Herbert for signature.

2014 Legislative Preview: Canal Safety Act

Senator Gene Davis will introduce Senate Bill 114 (SB 114), entitled "Canal Safety Act."  The bill seeks to enact several new statutes to govern canal safety issues.  The bill begins by defining a canal as a water conveyance system that conveys a flow of more than 10 cfs of water.  The bill would require all canal owners to conduct an assessment of the condition of each canal before January 1, 2015, and at least once every five years thereafter.  The canal owner must determine whether each section of the canal is high risk, medium risk, or low risk; determine if any repairs or improvements are necessary to reduce the risk of canal failure; and report the findings to the Utah Division of Water Rights.  The Division would then maintain a "canal action list" to include all canals that are high risk and/or require repairs or improvements.  If a canal is on the canal action list, the canal owner must prepare a remediation plan, which must be approved by the Division of Water Rights and the Division of Water Resources.  The canal owner cannot receive state funding for a project related to the canal unless they have an approved remediation plan.

To read the full text of the bill, as introduced, click here.

2014 Legislative Preview: Water and Irrigation Amendments

Senator Margaret Dayton will introduce Senate Bill 17 (SB 17), entitled "Water and Irrigation Amendments."  The bill is a "clean-up bill" that makes several small changes to the Utah Water Code.  First, the bill would expand the State Engineer's enforcement powers by allowing the State Engineer to pursue an enforcement action against a person who violates the law requiring a stream alteration permit for work done in a natural streambed.  Second, the bill would require assignments of unperfected water rights to be recorded with the proper county recorder instead of just being filed with the Division of Water Rights.  Third, the bill seeks to clarify the criminal penalties for well drillers operating without a current license.  Fourth, the bill proposes changes to the statute governing stream alteration permits, including giving the State Engineer authority to issue orders for repair and restoration of streambeds altered without a permit.  Finally, the bill proposes technical changes to the statute governing the State Engineer's duties to divide and distribute water.

To read the full text of SB 17, as introduced, click here.

Update: This bill was passed on February 13, 2014, and will now go to Governor Herbert for signature.