By Will Glade
Capital West News
SALT LAKE CITY — “Rep. Webb, you’re in front of a senate committee today,” said Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, “So come on! Suck it up. These people have come here to talk to you. . . So, let’s do this thing.”
And then it was as if the bells rang and you could hear someone say, “Round three, fight!”
Although those comments from Jenkins were said in jest, there was some truth to them. For those who have not been following HB140, this bill has been one of the most debated bills on the hill this legislative session. The debate continued in the Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee on Tuesday, Feb. 24.
This bill is in response of HB333 which made beach access and the launching of watercraft, very restricted on so-called “sovereign lands” around Bear Lake. This caused problems for many who frequented Bear Lake on vacation.
“I feel it is important to have some sort of statutory framework in place that prevents a return to the summer of ’14,” said the bill sponsor Rep. R. Curt Webb, R-Logan. Webb feels as though the current legislation allows for those in charge of State lands too much latitude and ability to exclude people from using public lands.
The current legislation requires people to have a permit in order to access the beach, and only those with beach front property are eligible for permits. Along with the permits, the sovereign lands were closed to use and travel unless posted otherwise. HB140 would reverse this and make travel open to all people unless the Department of Forestry, Fire and State Lands — the state agency in charge of sovereign lands — posts as close.
Along with HB140, there is a senate bill that would also address the issues associated with the current legislation, but it would not allow parallel travel to the lake. SB49 is currently on the Senate floor, where it has been put on hold. SB49 would still have to go through House committees and pass on the floor, assuming the bill passes the Senate.
A concerned citizen, Don Reese, said in his testimony, “SB49 is legislation that addresses many of the immediate concerns. SB49 would legislate where appropriate and allow management where that is the greater public good, where boots are really on the ground and the best choices can be made rather than here on Capitol Hill.”
He also addressed concerns about changing the paradigm from closed unless posted open to open unless posted as closed would create problems.
“One can make the opposite case that closed unless opened, allows for a more controlled and better management of this rare resource, in this case Bear Lake,” Reese said, “I assert that the ideas of parallel driving incorporated in HB140 do not adequately address legitimate concerns of impact to the shore and beach of the lake.”
The opposition to this bill has been based mostly on the clauses associated with parallel travel on beaches due to the concerns with a lack of safety for those on the beach — especially small children.
Although many spoke out against the bill, there are also many who support the bill and opening the beach to the public.
If both bills pass, there will have to be a special meeting where conflicting language will be resolved and only one cohesive law will be put into place. Rep. Webb stated that he has been working with Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Salt Lake City, to coordinate the two bills, but the two disagree on key issues, especially parallel travel.
HB140 passed committee four to two, with Iwamoto and Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, dissenting. The fight for HB140 will now continue on the Senate floor.