Utah Supreme Court upholds law making it more difficult to access waterways, much to the dismay of outdoor enthusiasts
The high court ruled the Public Waters Access Act — which restricts the public’s ability to access privately-owned steams — will remain as law.
The Utah Supreme Court has ruled to uphold a law that limits access to some of Utah’s rivers and streams — a ruling that impacts anglers and those who enjoy floating many of Utah’s waterways.
On Thursday, the state’s high court released an opinion upholding the Public Waters Access Act, a law passed in 2010 that tightened rules to access waterways around the state. The ruling affirmed a 4th District judge’s 2021 ruling on the same case, which reversed a previous decision.
The 2010 legislation said the Utah Constitution’s private property protections, “protect against government’s broad recognition or grant of a public recreation easement to access or use public water on private property.”
Further, the Public Waters Access Act says, “public ownership of water and recognizing existing rights of use are insufficient to overcome the specific constitutional protections for private property.”
In other words, the bill differentiated between public ownership of water and owning the private land that makes up a waterway’s creek bed — meaning fishermen and anglers wouldn’t be able to wade through rivers if the area was private land unless they get written permission from the land owner.
Find the complete report from the Salt Lake Tribune here.
This article is published through the Utah News Collaborative, a partnership of news organizations in Utah that aims to inform readers across the state.