Metro. Water Dist. of Salt Lake & Sandy v. SHCH Alaska

October 26, 2019

2019 UT 62 (October 16, 2019)

The Utah Supreme Court held that a water district, which owned an easement across land owned by a state trust, had no authority to regulate the trust’s use of its property.

Metro Water District owns an easement across land owned by SHCH Alaska Trust (Alaska), which gives it a right to enter Alaska’s property in order to operate and maintain a water pipeline. Alaska attempted to open a commercial zipline course on its property in Wasatch County. Upon applying for a conditional use permit, it learned Metro had enacted regulations restricting Alaska’s use of its property within the Salt Lake Aqueduct Corridor, through which Metro operates its pipeline. Alaska proceeded with the zipline operation without Metro’s approval, and Metro filed for injunctive relief. By reading several provisions together, the district court found that Metro’s status as a limited purpose local district under Title 17B of the Utah Code gave it regulatory authority to limit Alaska’s use of the property. Alaska appealed.

The Utah Supreme Court found no specific provision in the Limited Purpose Local Districts Act that would grant Metro authority to regulate Alaska’s property. The statute only allows Metro to regulate its own use of its property interests. Under Utah’s easement law, Metro’s status as an easement holder gives it a right to use Alaska’s property, and prevents Alaska from unreasonably interfering with Metro’s easement, but Metro has no additional authority over Alaska’s property that extends beyond the authority it derives from its easement rights.