By Jo Schaper
First of all, I’m not a lawyer. My background is a degree in geology, with a couple of classes in hydrology and a general familiarity with water law, and paddler’s law in Missouri. This is a personal and not a legal opinion. I’ve been paddling since 1974. I’d be interested in hearing what others think. (If you want a primer on Missouri water law, I recommend take a look at Harry Styron’s blog, Ozark Law and Economy, Missouri water law primer.)
Missouri House Bill 955, titled “Changes the laws regarding natural resources,” has some people upset as they wonder what effect this bill, if passed, would have on the iconic Missouri pastime of enjoying our rivers in canoes, kayaks, johnboats, jetboats, rafts and all manner of floatation devices.
Representative Robert Ross, (R- Dist. 142) the author of the bill, is a land surveyor by trade. A land surveyor must be familiar with both the craft of surveying, and survey law in order to do his job, which is measuring land parcels to define ownership of tracts of land. Many Missouri tracts have water on it or defining its boundaries.
Water law is a mix of statutory law (law enacted as statues) and case law (legal guidance issued as a result of court cases.) Statutory law is usually written generally to apply in all cases. Case law may be either specific to a situation to settle a dispute or it may, after going through several levels of courts, be applied generally to all such situations. One may turn into the other. Continue reading House Bill 955: is it a threat to Missouri floating?