2012 Colorado November election: A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in a Montana case could affect initiatives 3 and 45


From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

Ken Baker, consultant for the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, called the ruling “one of the most important water cases ever heard in the Supreme Court” during the district board meeting Thursday. Baker said the unanimous ruling involves the definition of “navigable waters,” which determines ownership of the streambeds and riverbeds of U.S. waterways. When a state joins the United States, Baker explained, it obtains title to land underneath water that is “navigable.” Baker said the ruling emphasizes “navigability in fact,” a definition based on waterway commerce at the time of statehood, criteria that, for example, classify the Arkansas River as non-navigable. The ruling overturned a decision by the Supreme Court of Montana, whose justices cited the present-day ability of recreational boats to navigate the sections of river in question.

Baker said the State of Montana also argued that denying the state title to the riverbeds would undermine the public trust doctrine, an argument the justices dismissed.
As a result, Baker said the ruling “would support rendering the (‘public trust’) referendum unconstitutional if it were to pass.”

More 2012 Colorado November election coverage here.

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