2017 ORS 537.780¹
Powers of Water Resources Commission
  • rules
  • limitations on authority

(1) In the administration of ORS 537.505 (Short title) to 537.795 (ORS 537.505 to 537.795 supplementary) and 537.992 (Civil penalties), the Water Resources Commission may:

(a) Require that all flowing wells be capped or equipped with valves so that the flow of ground water may be completely stopped when the ground water is not actually being applied to a beneficial use.

(b) Enforce:

(A) General standards for the construction and maintenance of wells and their casings, fittings, valves, pumps and back-siphoning prevention devices; and

(B) Special standards for the construction and maintenance of particular wells and their casings, fittings, valves and pumps.

(c)(A) Adopt by rule and enforce when necessary to protect the ground water resource, standards for the construction, maintenance, abandonment or use of any hole through which ground water may be contaminated; or

(B) Enter into an agreement with, or advise, other state agencies that are responsible for holes other than wells through which ground water may be contaminated in order to protect the ground water resource from contamination.

(d) Enforce uniform standards for the scientific measurement of water levels and of ground water flowing or withdrawn from wells.

(e) Enter upon any lands for the purpose of inspecting wells, including wells exempt under ORS 537.545 (Exempt uses), casings, fittings, valves, pipes, pumps, measuring devices and back-siphoning prevention devices.

(f) Prosecute actions and suits to enjoin violations of ORS 537.505 (Short title) to 537.795 (ORS 537.505 to 537.795 supplementary) and 537.992 (Civil penalties), and appear and become a party to any action, suit or proceeding in any court or before any administrative body when it appears to the satisfaction of the commission that the determination of the action, suit or proceeding might be in conflict with the public policy expressed in ORS 537.525 (Policy).

(g) Call upon and receive advice and assistance from the Environmental Quality Commission or any other public agency or any person, and enter into cooperative agreements with a public agency or person.

(h) Adopt and enforce rules necessary to carry out the provisions of ORS 537.505 (Short title) to 537.795 (ORS 537.505 to 537.795 supplementary) and 537.992 (Civil penalties) including but not limited to rules governing:

(A) The form and content of registration statements, certificates of registration, applications for permits, permits, certificates of completion, ground water right certificates, notices, proofs, maps, drawings, logs and licenses;

(B) Procedure in hearings held by the commission; and

(C) The circumstances under which the helpers of persons operating well drilling machinery may be exempt from the requirement of direct supervision by a licensed water well constructor.

(i) In accordance with applicable law regarding search and seizure, apply to any court of competent jurisdiction for a warrant to seize any well drilling machine used in violation of ORS 537.747 (Water well constructor’s license) or 537.753 (Bond or letter of credit).

(2) Notwithstanding any provision of subsection (1) of this section, in administering the provisions of ORS 537.505 (Short title) to 537.795 (ORS 537.505 to 537.795 supplementary) and 537.992 (Civil penalties), the commission may not:

(a) Adopt any rule restricting ground water use in an area unless the rule is based on substantial evidence in the record of the Water Resources Department to justify the imposition of restrictions.

(b) Make any determination that a ground water use will impair, substantially interfere or unduly interfere with a surface water source unless the determination is based on substantial evidence. Such evidence may include reports or studies prepared with relation to the specific use or may be based on the application of generally accepted hydrogeological principles to the specific use.

(3) At least once every three years, the commission shall review any rule adopted under subsection (2) of this section that restricts ground water use in an area. The review process shall include public notice and an opportunity to comment on the rule. [1955 c.708 §32; 1981 c.416 §7; 1985 c.673 §73; 1989 c.833 §60; 1995 c.549 §2]

Notes of Decisions

Water Resources Commission imple­menta­tion and en­force­­ment of state control over inspec­tion and construc­tion of wells is discre­tionary. Ashland Drilling, Inc. v. Jackson County, 168 Or App 624, 4 P3d 748 (2000), Sup Ct review denied

County ordinance pro­vi­sions requiring well construc­tion permit, imposing construc­tion permit fees, regulating well loca­tion, requiring submission of plot plans, and requiring flow testing are preempted by state law. Ashland Drilling, Inc. v. Jackson County, 168 Or App 624, 4 P3d 748 (2000), Sup Ct review denied

County ordinance pro­vi­sions requiring well wa­ter quality testing, requiring inclusion of notice in deed of inadequate wa­ter supply, and regulating subdivision of lands having inadequate wa­ter supply are not preempted by state law. Ashland Drilling, Inc. v. Jackson County, 168 Or App 624, 4 P3d 748 (2000), Sup Ct review denied

Notes of Decisions

Ground Water Act of 1955, construed together with ORS chapter 536, governing ad­min­is­tra­­tion of wa­ter resources generally, cannot be read as expressly prohibiting local bodies from engaging in regulatory ac­tivity consistent with statute or agency regula­tions. Water Resources Dept. v. City of Klamath Falls, 68 Or App 148, 682 P2d 779 (1984), Sup Ct review denied

Atty. Gen. Opinions

Require­ments for exploring for or produc­tion of geothermal or oil or gas resources, (1974) Vol 37, p 68

Law Review Cita­tions

4 EL 333 (1974); 47 WLR 405 (2011)

Chapter 537

Notes of Decisions

Water control district, in applying for wa­ter appropria­tion permit for hydroelectric project, was exempt from licensing pro­vi­sions of ORS 543.010 (Definitions for ORS 543.010 to 543.610) to 543.620 and needed only to comply with require­ments of this chapter. Steamboaters v. Winchester Water Control Dist., 69 Or App 596, 688 P2d 92 (1984), Sup Ct review denied

Atty. Gen. Opinions

Reserva­tion to state of “all coal and other minerals” in deed of land by state as reserva­tion of geothermal resources, (1980) Vol 41, p 298

Law Review Cita­tions

11 EL 387 (1981); 16 EL 583, 592 (1986); 28 WLR 285 (1992)

1 Legislative Counsel Committee, CHAPTER 537—Appropriation of Water Generally, https://­www.­oregonlegislature.­gov/­bills_laws/­ors/­ors537.­html (2017) (last ac­cessed Mar. 30, 2018).
 
2 Legislative Counsel Committee, Annotations to the Oregon Revised Stat­utes, Cumulative Supplement - 2017, Chapter 537, https://­www.­oregonlegislature.­gov/­bills_laws/­ors/­ano537.­html (2017) (last ac­cessed Mar. 30, 2018).
 
3 OregonLaws.org assembles these lists by analyzing references between Sections. Each listed item refers back to the current Section in its own text. The result reveals relationships in the code that may not have otherwise been apparent.