[174C-11] Hearings officers. (a) The chairperson may appoint hearings officers, not subject to chapter 76, to hear and reach a preliminary decision on any matter concerning the implementation or administration of the state water code which the commission may refer to the hearings officers by rule or otherwise.

(b) In assigning matters to hearings officers, the chairperson shall make the assignments in a manner which ensures that hearings officers will develop familiarity and expertise with given geographic areas.

(c) In conducting a hearing on any matter referred by the commission, a hearings officer shall solicit and consider the views of the appropriate county officials responsible for planning, economic development, and resource management and such other county officials and others as the commission shall direct. Any affected county agency shall be admitted as a party upon request.

(d) Each hearings officer is deemed to be an agent of the commission with all powers associated with such designation.

(e) In order to facilitate dispute resolution, the commission may employ mediation methods where practicable including the use of masters.

(f) The commission shall adjudicate disputes where there is insufficient water to meet competing needs. [L 1987, c 45, pt of 2; am L 2000, c 253, 150]

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