Issues of concern to people who live in the west: property rights, water rights, endangered species, livestock grazing, energy production, wilderness and western agriculture. Plus a few items on western history, western literature and the sport of rodeo... Frank DuBois served as the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003. DuBois is a former legislative assistant to a U.S. Senator, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior, and is the founder of the DuBois Rodeo Scholarship.
Wednesday, October 05, 2011
Supreme Court Wades Into Raging Dispute Over Riverbed Ownership
The object of his ridicule is a Montana Supreme Court ruling from March 2010, in which a majority held that this and two other rivers -- the Missouri and the Madison -- are navigable. The court decision has serious implications for PPL Montana, which owns 10 dams on the three rivers, including one that spans the river at Thompson Falls and is managed by Jacobson. In finding the rivers navigable, the court concluded that the state owns the riverbeds, which means PPL owes $40 million in rent for its use of the riverbeds since the company acquired them in 1999. The court based its ruling on an 1845 U.S. Supreme Court case that said states hold title to riverbeds if the river was navigable at the time the state was admitted to the Union. The tussle over who owns the riverbeds arose out of a debate in Montana over how the state utilizes public lands. Like in other Western states, certain tracts were put into public trusts at the time Montana was admitted to the Union. Among them are lands set aside for funding schools. Over the years, some Montanans have speculated whether the state has made the best use of its lands, which, they claim, could have had a detrimental effect on the revenue generated. It was Helena-based lawyer John Bloomquist who came up with the idea of focusing on riverbeds. A subsequent investigation confirmed that "no compensation was being provided," he added. Bloomquist joined with a Bozeman law firm, Goetz, Gallik & Baldwin and -- representing the school districts and some individual parents -- filed suit in 2003, arguing that the state had "failed to obtain full market value" for the land upon which hydroelectric projects were located as required under state law...more