In our last post, we began looking at the various steps of the water permitting process. We’ve already briefly discussed the importance of working with experienced legal counsel in filing an application, working through the environmental review phase, and addressing public protests and related board hearings that may arise. After these steps of the process, a permit may be issued, but only under certain conditions.
Before a permit may be issued, the State Water Board must determine two things: first, that the water the applicant seeks to appropriate is available; secondly, that the water appropriation is in the public interest. If the board determines that these conditions are met, a permit may be issued. If not, it may either impose conditions on the permit or deny it altogether.
In addition to conditions aimed at ensuring water availability and protection of the public interest, other conditions are typically placed on water use permits. Some of these conditions are based upon the discretion of the board, and aren’t necessarily set in stone in the initial stages. Working out these conditions with the board is isn’t always an easy process, but experienced legal counsel can help ensure a project is minimally burdened with various conditions and limitations.
Also, any changes in the purpose, point of diver, or place of use in a water use project must be approved by the board. The board will not approve changes that initiate new rights or injure other parties legally entitled to use the water. Properly defining and carefully presenting a proposal to change a permit is, therefore, very important.
The Water Use Board is responsible for enforcing conditions on permits and licenses and may revoke them if conditions aren’t met. Alternatively, the board may impose less severe action for condition violations. Navigating the proceedings associated with these actions is critical to ensuring the success of a water use project, and experienced legal counsel can help here as well.