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Who Own’s the Nations Riverway’s? | by Tom Bi

December 10, 2011
Author: Trouts Staff

Tom Bie, Senior Editor of The Drake Magazine, recently wrote a guest collum in the Denver Post regarding a river access lawsuit that was being heard by the US Supreme Court.  With obvious implications to the nations river users, Tom offers a valuable and well thought out perspective on this contentious issue.

"Wednesday was a big day in Washington, D.C., for anyone who likes fishing, rafting or canoeing public water in the United States.

In what is likely the most meaningful river-access case ever heard before the U.S. Supreme Court, PPL Montana vs. Montana is seeking to answer the long-disputed question of who really owns the riverbeds on navigable waterways, and whether the definition of "navigable" should be based on the present, or based on the river's navigability when the state joined the union.

This case should greatly interest residents of Colorado, particularly considering the access debate that erupted on the Taylor River in 2010, a conflict that led to House Bill 1188 — the "Right to Float" bill, which led to Gov. Bill Ritter's "River Access Dispute Resolution Task Force," which led to the appointment in September of the three-person "River Access Mediation Commission."

This case has implications far beyond Montana. Indeed, an executive from PPL, a Montana power company, might have put it best: "We welcome the Supreme Court's decision to take up this case," said Robert Grey, senior vice president of PPL, when the Supreme Court agreed back in June to hear the case. "Because of the broad implications it has for water users throughout the West."

Twenty-six state attorneys general filed a joint amicus brief in support of the State of Montana, including Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Alaska, Nevada and New Mexico. But not Colorado. Why? For the answer, you need look no further than four of the organizations that filed amicus briefs in support of the power company — all from the Centennial State: the Colorado Cattlemen's Association, Colorado Farm Bureau, Littleton-based Creekside Coalition, and — shocker alert — the Lakewood-based Mountain States Legal Foundation."

read the rest of Tom's article at

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