Generally, any public or private landowners, hydroelectric project owners, or others in lawful possession and control of any lands, including water areas, who allow members of the public to use the areas for the purposes of outdoor recreation are not liable for unintentional injuries to such users.
This exemption does not apply to injuries sustained by users by reason of a known dangerous artificial latent condition for which warning signs have not been conspicuously posted. Known dangerous artificial latent conditions do not include releasing water or flows and making waterways or channels available for kayaking, canoeing, or rafting purposes pursuant to a hydroelectric license issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
The term "recreation" includes:
A landowner who releases water or flows and makes waterways or channels available for recreational use pursuant to a hydroelectric license issued by the FERC is not liable for injuries sustained by the public while boating, swimming, or fishing.
The exemption from liability for such landowners does not apply to any action filed prior to the effective date of the bill.
(In support) It became apparent that the general liability statute and the statute that governs hydropower projects needed to be reconciled. The recreational opportunities provided by our hydropower parks are great, but they do result in issues sometimes. They are mandated by their federal licenses to provide those opportunities to the public, so this bill just clarifies and makes it more transparent what the liability situation is for the use of these areas. The Grant County Public Utility District owns and operates two hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River and are licensed by the FERC and must be operated consistent with this license which requires recreational opportunities. There are a variety of 19 recreational activities and studies show that around 350,000 people will visit one of these sites each year. We appreciate the clarity provided by this bill so hydro-specific recreational activities include all water-dependent uses in the liability statute. We worked closely with other utilities on this bill and the bill passed unanimously out of the Senate.
(Other) We appreciate the work that was done in committee to address concerns and eliminate opposition to the bill. The activities of boating, fishing, and swimming have always been an explicit part of the general immunity statute that was adopted by the Legislature in 1967. Some confusion was created concerning how it applies to certain FERC-regulated waterways because of an amendment that was narrowly designed to address a different issue, but was interpreted a little more broadly. We believe this bill will restore the original intent and application of this statute and ensure that it does apply to some of these FERC-regulated waterways. The activities listed here will still be subject to a very limited safety exception from the immunity.