174C-50 Existing uses. [2001 amendment retroactive to July 1, 1987. L 2001, c 10, 3.] (a) All existing uses of water in a designated water management area, except those exempted from regulation by this chapter, may be continued after the effective date of designation only with a permit issued in accordance with sections 174C-51, 174C-52, and 174C-53(b).

(b) After publication as provided in section 174C-52, the commission shall issue a permit for the continuation of a use in existence on the effective date of designation, if the criteria in subsection (a) are met and the existing use is reasonable and beneficial.

Whether the existing use is a reasonable-beneficial use and is allowable under the common law of the State shall be determined by the commission after a hearing; provided that the commission may make such a determination without a hearing, if the quantity of water applied for does not exceed an amount per month established by rule or if the quantity of water applied for exceeds an amount per month established by rule, but no objection to the application is filed by any person having standing to file an objection. In determining whether an application does not exceed the amount per month established by rule, the commission shall consider an average of water use over the three-month period immediately preceding the filing of the application.

(c) An application for a permit to continue an existing use must be made within a period of one year from the effective date of designation. Except for appurtenant rights, failure to apply within this period creates a presumption of abandonment of the use, and the user, if the user desires to revive the use, must apply for a permit under section 174C-51. If the commission determines that there is just cause for the failure to file, it may allow a late filing. However, the commission may not allow a late filing more than five years after the effective date of rules implementing this chapter. The commission shall send two notices, one of which shall be by registered mail, to existing users to file for an application for a permit to continue an existing use.

(d) An application shall be acted upon by the commission within ninety calendar days of an application not requiring a hearing, or within one hundred eighty calendar days of an application requiring a hearing. The time periods prescribed in this subsection shall not be deemed to run for any period in which an application is not complete in all material respects in the judgment of the commission.

(e) The commission shall issue an interim permit; provided that the existing use meets the conditions of subsection (b). The commission shall also issue an interim permit for an estimated, initial allocation of water if the quantity of water consumed under the existing use is not immediately verifiable, but the existing use otherwise meets the conditions of subsection (b) for a permit or an interim permit. An interim permit is valid for such time period specified therein. The commission may issue successive interim permits of limited duration. Interim permits are subject to revocation under section 174C-58. Whenever interim permits are to be issued, the time periods specified in subsection (d) apply to the issuance or nonissuance of interim permits.

(f) A permit to continue an existing use shall be for a quantity of water not exceeding that quantity being consumed under the existing use. The quantity being consumed shall be determined and verified by the best available means not unduly burdensome on the applicant, as determined by the commission. The commission may prescribe the installation of metering or gauging devices, and, if so prescribed, such metering or gauging devices shall be in place and operational for at least one year before a determination is made as to the quantity of water being consumed in an existing use and a final permit is issued.

(g) If an interim permit is issued pending verification of the actual quantity of water being consumed under the existing use, a final determination of that quantity shall be made within five years of the filing of the application to continue the existing use. In the final determination, the commission may increase or reduce the amount initially granted the permittee.

(h) Two or more existing uses of water are deemed to be competing when they draw water from the same hydrologically controllable area and the aggregate quantity of water consumed by the users exceeds the appropriate sustainable yield or instream flow standards established pursuant to law for the area. If applications are made to continue existing uses which are competing and the uses otherwise meet the requirements of subsection (b), the commission shall hold a hearing to determine the quantity of water that may be consumed and the conditions to be imposed on each existing use.

(i) A permit user of water with a continuous reduced water usage shall be given priority to reobtain its permitted level of water usage over any other application; provided that the use remains the same and is reasonable and beneficial and water is available. [L 1987, c 45, pt of 2; am L 1999, c 197, 8; am L 2001, c 10, 1]

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