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H.350

Introduced by   Representative Obuchowski of Rockingham

Referred to Committee on

Date:

Subject:  Conservation; public trust doctrine

Statement of purpose:  This bill proposes to provide that the public trust resource that exists in the navigable rivers, streams, brooks, and creeks of the state extends to the 10‑year high watermark.  It proposes to require the department of environmental conservation to act to protect the public’s interests in these waters:  to provide information to municipalities, law enforcement personnel, and landowners with respect to the interests of the general public in these waters; and to recommend a process by which a landowner may apply for an abatement of taxes for those lands that are subject to this policy, and whereby a municipality would compute the acreage that would be subject to the abatement and grant the abatement.  Finally, it proposes to require the agency of natural resources to provide each town with a notice with respect to the rights of the general public in these waters, and it requires the towns to include a copy of the notice in each tax bill mailed during 2005, and every five years thereafter, to property owners in the town.

AN ACT RELATING TO PROVIDING THAT THE PUBLIC TRUST DOCTRINE AS APPLIED TO RIVERS AND STREAMS EXTENDS TO THE 10‑YEAR HIGH WATERMARK

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1.  10 V.S.A. § 901 is amended to read:

§ 901.  WATER RESOURCES MANAGEMENT POLICY

It is hereby declared to be the policy of the state that the water resources of the state shall be protected, regulated and, where necessary, controlled under authority of the state in the public interest and to promote the general welfare.  The navigable rivers, streams, brooks, and creeks of the state are declared to be public trust resources, extending up to the 10-year high watermark.

Sec. 2.  10 V.S.A. § 905b is amended to read:

§ 905b.  DUTIES; POWERS

The department shall protect and manage the water resources of the state in accordance with the provisions of this subchapter and shall:

* * *

(18)  study and investigate the wetlands of the state and cooperate with other agencies and the board in collecting and compiling data relating to wetlands, propose to the board specific wetlands to be designated as significant wetlands, and implement through existing programs the rules adopted by the board governing significant wetlands, including the issuance or denial of conditional use determinations pursuant to section 1272 of this title;

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(21)  act as the Vermont water resources board mentioned in the act of Congress, entitled “An act authorizing the construction of certain public works on rivers and harbors for flood control and for other purposes,” approved December 22, 1944. In this connection, the department shall carry out the policy of the state as defined by section 1100 of this title;

(22)  act to protect the public’s interests in the navigable rivers, streams, brooks, and creeks of the state, up to the 10‑year high watermark; provide information to municipalities, law enforcement personnel, and landowners with respect to the rights of riparian landowners and the rights of the general public in these lands; and make recommendations for a process by which a landowner may apply for an abatement of taxes for these lands, and whereby a municipality would compute the acreage that would be subject to the abatement and award the abatement.

Sec. 3.  NOTICE OF PUBLIC TRUST DOCTRINE

The secretary of natural resources, prior to June 1, 2006, and every fifth year thereafter, shall prepare and supply to each town in the state a notice of the public trust doctrine as it applies to the navigable rivers, streams, brooks, and creeks of the state.  A town shall include the notice in each tax bill and notice of delinquent taxes which it mails during 2006, and every fifth year thereafter, to taxpayers of that town.  The notice to property owners shall explain that the public trust doctrine extends to the 10‑year high watermark in the navigable rivers, streams, brooks, and creeks of the state, and that the public has a right to pass through these lands without harassment from a riparian landowner.



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us