Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments in a case where the methods of determining stream ownership rights are at issue. In the case, PPL Montana LLC vs. Montana, the Supreme Court is faced with deciding what the proper criteria for determining whether a river is navigable, specifically as it relates to title rights, is the current navigability of a river or the navigability of a river at the time the state in which it is found was incorporated. Though this distinction may seem insignificant, the court's decision could have far reaching impacts on stream access rights around the country.
PPL Montana, a Montana power generation company that owns hydroelectric dams on the famous Missouri, Madison and Clark Fork Rivers, is arguing that the Montana Supreme Court decision which gave ownership rights of the streambeds of these three rivers to the State of Montana was an erroneous one. Both sides will present arguments on what the proper legal distinction determining navigability is, and both sides reportedly plan to cite information from the historical Lewis and Clark expedition.