Last month, the Utah Stream Access Coalition (USAC) announced it had won its longstanding Weber River case. Judge Keith Kelly of Utah’s 3rd District Court confirmed that the Weber was navigable where it crosses over the landowner defendant’s properties. That ruling has led to many questions over the past couple of weeks, and USAC has prepared a fact sheet to help clarify the situation for the angling public. What’s most notable, is this access win only pertains to a small, one-mile stretch of the Weber.
“To succeed in this initial step of restoring lawful public use of Utah’s rivers and streams, USAC, through it attorneys, brought two test cases asserting two distinct legal theories, one arguing federal navigability-for-title principles on a small reach of the Weber River and a second, on a small reach of the Provo River, that directly challenges HB141 under Utah law and seeks to reinstate public rights confirmed under Conatser.”
In both cases, the coalition seeks to establish state-wide legal precedent from the Utah Supreme Court of the public’s right to lawfully-access and use Utah’s rivers and streams.
For now, and for those heading to the Weber this spring and summer, here’s what you need to know:
Judge Kelly’s ruling affirms the navigability of the Weber River over “the one-mile stretch”– a one-mile reach of the river in the vicinity of the Browns Canyon Bridge. It does not formally adjudicate the navigability of the other ~124 total miles of the entire river, or even the other ~39 miles of the “Upper Weber” between Holiday Park and Echo, Utah.
What the ruling does and does not do:
• It DOES reopen the beds and banks of the Weber through the “the one-mile stretch”
to lawful public recreational use.
• It DOES NOT reopen the beds and banks of the Weber to lawful public use above or
below the 4 properties that make up “the one-mile stretch.”
• It DOES NOT reopen the beds and banks of any other part or the Weber to lawful
• It DOES NOT reopen the beds and banks of any other waterways of Utah effectively
closed to public use by “The Public Waters Access Act” of 2010 (a.k.a. HB141).
• It DOES NOT repeal or otherwise affect the validity of HB141 anywhere.
• Finally, it definitely DOES NOT allow the public to trespass across private property
to gain access to the beds and banks of the Weber through the “the one-mile
stretch,” or any other reach of the Weber, or any other waterway in Utah.
Tom Bie is the founder, editor, and publisher of The Drake. He started the magazine in 1998 as an annual newsprint publication based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He then moved it to Steamboat, Colorado (1999), Boulder, Colorado (2001), and San Clemente, California (2004), as he took jobs as managing editor at Paddler, Senior Editor at Skiing, and Editor-in-Chief at Powder, respectively. Tom and The Drake are now both based in Denver, Colorado, where The Drake is finally all grows up(Swingers, 1996) to a quarterly magazine.