by David Hartvigsen, Jeffry Gittins, and Nathan Bracken
The 2017 General Session of the Utah Legislature begins Monday January 23 and runs through Thursday March 9. Here are the highlights of the currently released bills of interest:
HB 84 - Water Law - Nonuse Requirements Rep. Tim Hawkes
This bill, which has been recommended by the Executive Water Rights Task Force, clarifies that: (1) an approved nonuse application excuses the requirement of beneficial use from the nonuse application's filing date; (2) the filing or approval of a nonuse application, or a series of nonuse applications, does not constitute beneficial use or protect a water right that is already subject to forfeiture; and (3) a nonuse application does not bar a water right owner from using the water as permitted under the water right or from claiming any available defense against forfeiture. The bill also modifies the procedures for instituting a forfeiture action for nonuse.
HB 118 - Authority of State Engineer Rep. Tim Hawkes
This bill, which has been recommended by the Executive Water Rights Task Force, allows the State Engineer to develop rules regarding the "duty of water" or in other words, a quantification of the maximum amount of water that can be beneficially used, without waste, for a particular purpose. Although the State Engineer and the courts in General Adjudications have used this concept for over 100 years, there is no statutory authority for this concept. This bill gives the State Engineer express authority to do what is already being done with respect to the duty of water.
SB 11 - Water Development Commission Amendments Sen. Margaret Dayton
This bill, which has been recommended by the Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Interim Committee, modifies the membership of the State Water Development Commission. The bill removes the following nonvoting members from the Commission: the state treasurer; two representatives of the Governor's Office, including one representative from the Governor's Office of Management and Budget; the executive director of the Department of Natural Resources; the executive director of the Department of Environmental Quality; the commissioner of agriculture and food; a member of the Board of Water Resources; and a representative with experience with finance and economics. The bill adds one nonvoting member to the Commission: a representative of the governor's cabinet or the Governor's Office.
SB 63 - Nonprofit Corporation Amendments - Water Sen. Margaret Dayton
This bill, which has been recommended by the Executive Water Rights Task Force, modifies the Utah Revised Nonprofit Corporation Act to change the default rule on the transferability of shares in a water company from non-transferrable to transferrable, unless the articles or bylaws of the water company specify otherwise. It states that a shareholder in a water company has "an equitable, beneficial interest in the use of the water supply of the water company, proportionate to the shareholder's shares in the water company, which interest is in the nature of real property." It also now expressly allows a water company to purchase delinquent shares of stock and clarifies the process for distributions to shareholders in a water company.
Bill Requests (Not Yet Numbered)
HB ___ Fee List Amendments Rep. Logan Wilde
Preliminary drafts of this bill, which has been recommended by the Executive Water Rights Task Force, update the name of an "Extension of Time to Resume Use Application" to its current name used elsewhere in the code, i.e., a "Nonuse Application."
HB ___ Assignment Addendums Rep. Logan Wilde
Preliminary drafts of this bill, which has been recommended by the Executive Water Rights Task Force, allow "Water Right Deed Addendums" to be used and recorded with water right "Assignments" and to have those Addendums be forwarded to the State Engineer.
SB ___ Public Water Supplier Amendments (Instream Flows) Sen. Jani Iwamoto
Preliminary drafts of this bill modify Utah's instream flow statute (Section 73-3-30) to allow public water suppliers to change perfected water rights for instream use. The instream flows must be located within the public water supplier's jurisdictional boundaries and the related change application can be up to ten years. The bill would also specify that all approved instream flow change applications will be administered according to the change application's priority date relative to all other rights in the stream system, thereby making the application the most junior right in the system. This represents a change from the current statute, which specifies that change applications for instream flows are distributed according to the application's priority date relative only to other rights the stream section specified in the application, rather than the entire stream system.
HB ___ Public Supplier Water Amendments Rep. Merrill Nelson
HB ___ Great Salt Lake Commission Rep. Merrill Nelson
HB ___ Water Commissioner Expenses Rep. Scott Chew
SB ___ Water Infrastructure Revisions Sen. J. Stuart Adams
SB ___ Water Law - Protected Purchaser Agreements Sen. Margaret Dayton
Possible Legislation Recommended by the Executive Water Task Force
The Executive Water Task Force is recommending changes to the process municipalities follow when notifying canal owners of subdivisions that have been approved within 100 feet of the center line of a canal. Currently, municipalities mostly rely on information they receive from canal owners. The Task Force recommends legislation that would require Cities to also use the State Engineer's canal inventory along with information provided by the surveyor who makes the plat for the subdivision. The Task Force also recommends that surveyors consult with the owners of canals that are located within a proposed subdivision or within 100 feet of the subdivision when preparing subdivision plats. Lastly, the Task Force recommends that the State Engineer include enclosed canals within its canal inventory and recommends extending the deadline to complete the inventory until 2019.