Stream bill would protect lawmaker's land

HB187 » His stretch of river would be off-limits to anglers.
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A Utah lawmaker and his family own land along a 1.1-mile portion of the Ogden River that would be closed to public fishing under a proposed bill that has drawn heated opposition from Utah anglers and river enthusiasts.

Under HB187, sponsored by Rep. Ben Ferry, R-Corinne, the only closed portion of the north and south branches of the Ogden River's South Fork, between Pineview and Causey reservoirs, would run through property owned by the family of Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville.

Froerer said Wednesday that he didn't ask for special consideration from Ferry, but had simply answered Ferry's question about whether the stream dries up in summer months, which he says it does.

Ferry said this week that landowners along the river, whom he did not name, approached him to close the stretch of river because of low summer flows due to an irrigation diversion.

"My family has owned that property for a long time and we have never refused anybody who has asked for permission to fish, and if they are respecting private property rights we have never asked them to leave," Froerer said. "It could obviously be viewed as a conflict by having a river in my backyard, but I have not made a decision on the bill."

Ferry has said he is sponsoring HB187 to clarify issues stemming from a 2008 Utah Supreme Court ruling that said all streambeds are open to the public, even if they cross private land. Ferry's bill designates sections of 16 rivers as remaining open to the public and creates a board to recommend waters that may be added to that list in the future.

Recreationists have protested the bill, which got a thumbs up from the House Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee, saying it unfairly restricts access to too many Utah waters.

Layton angler David Kunz called The Tribune after discovering through a search of records at the Weber County Recorder's Office that more than 68 acres are owned by members of the Froerer family and the Froerer Appraisal and Investment Co.

He fished the segment on Tuesday.

"It is true a portion of these creeks may be dry some of the year, but the majority are beautiful streams teeming with wildlife and worthy of continued access," said Kunz, who reported catching several trout in a stretch bordering Froerer's land.

Froerer said the bill's sponsor has been listening to both sides.

"There are a lot of farmers in my district who are concerned and who are in contact with Representative Ferry giving him their perspective," said Froerer, who hasn't taken a position on the bill. "A number of fishermen have e-mailed me with their concerns."