2011 ORS § 537.143¹
Limited license to use or store surface or ground water or to use stored water
  • rules

(1) Notwithstanding the provisions of ORS 537.130 (Permit to appropriate water required), the Water Resources Commission may establish by rule a procedure to allow a person to obtain a limited license to use or store ground water not otherwise exempt under ORS 537.545 (Exempt uses), to use or store surface water, to use stored water or to use stored water for purposes for which the stored water is authorized and in accordance with a contract with a local, state or federal government after the person complies with the notice provisions set forth in ORS 537.144 (Request for right to use water under limited license). Uses eligible for a limited license shall be for a short-term or fixed duration and may include but are not limited to road construction and maintenance, general construction and forestland or rangeland management. Except as provided in subsections (4) to (6) and (9) of this section, the use of water for a purpose specifically prohibited by a basin program or for irrigation is not eligible for a limited license.

(2) The use of water under a limited license under subsection (1) of this section shall not have priority over any water right exercised according to a permit or certificate and shall be subordinate to all other authorized uses that rely upon the same source. The Water Resources Department may revoke the right to use of water acquired under a limited license pursuant to subsection (1) of this section at any time if the use causes injury to:

(a) Any other water right; or

(b) A minimum perennial streamflow.

(3) Except as provided in subsections (4), (5) and (11) of this section, the licensee shall give notice to the Water Resources Department at least 15 days in advance of using the water under the limited license and shall maintain a record of use. The record shall include but need not be limited to an estimate of the amount of water used, the period of use and the categories of beneficial use to which the water is applied. During the period of the limited license, the record of use shall be available for review by the department upon request.

(4) The Water Resources Director may issue a limited license in conjunction with an enforcement order to address an illegal water use, including irrigation use or a use specifically prohibited by a basin program. The director may issue a limited license for such a use upon a finding that:

(a) The person did not knowingly violate state laws regarding a water use permit;

(b) The immediate termination of the illegal use would cause serious and undue hardship to the water user that could be ameliorated by providing a period of time in which to achieve compliance with the law; and

(c) The continued use under a limited license outweighs the public benefits of termination, including deterrence of illegal uses and protection of the water source.

(5) An enforcement order issued under subsection (4) of this section shall specify an amount of time in which the person using water illegally shall bring such use into compliance. The duration of the limited license shall not exceed the duration of time allowed in the enforcement order to achieve compliance. A licensee using water under a limited license issued in conjunction with an enforcement order need not provide the department with advance notice of water use, but shall comply with the other requirements of this section.

(6) The director may issue a limited license for irrigation if the sole purpose of the use is:

(a) To provide water necessary to establish a crop for which no further irrigation will be required after the crop is established;

(b) To mitigate the impacts of drought when additional water is needed beyond a prescribed irrigation season in order to avoid irreparable damage to the users crop; or

(c) Under a limited license issued pursuant to subsection (9) of this section.

(7) Nothing in this section is intended to prohibit any person from obtaining a water right certificate under ORS 537.250 (Water right certificate) or 537.630 (Time allowed for construction work under permit) for any use for which a limited license is obtained under this section.

(8) Except as provided in subsection (10) of this section, the department may not issue a limited license for the same use for more than five consecutive years.

(9) Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, if the use of water under the limited license is for the use of stored water consistent with the purposes for which the stored water is authorized and the use of water is authorized by a contract between the user and a local, state or federal government:

(a) The limited license may be issued for a period of up to one year; and

(b) The limited license shall be revoked if the contract between the user and the local, state or federal government is terminated for any reason.

(10) At the end of the one-year limited license period in subsection (9) of this section, the user may reapply for a limited license under ORS 537.144 (Request for right to use water under limited license) provided that there is an authorized contract between the user and a local, state or federal government.

(11) The director may issue a limited license authorizing immediate use of water if the director finds that an emergency exists and the water is needed to protect the public health, safety and welfare. Notwithstanding subsection (8) of this section, the director may issue a limited license for such a use for a period of 60 days. [1989 c.933 §2; 1993 c.595 §1; 1995 c.274 §8; 1997 c.38 §1; 1997 c.366 §1]