85-2-309. Hearings on objections -- jurisdiction. (1) If the department determines that an objection to an application for a permit under 85-2-311 or change in appropriation right under 85-2-402 states a valid objection, it shall hold a contested case hearing, pursuant to Title 2, chapter 4, part 6, on the objection within 90 days from the date set by the department for the filing of objections after serving notice of the hearing by first-class mail upon the applicant and the objector, unless the department certifies an issue to the district court for determination by a water judge under subsection (2). The department may consolidate hearings if more than one objection is filed to an application. The department may extend the 90-day deadline for good cause shown or upon request of the applicant and all objectors. The department shall file in its records proof of the service by affidavit of the department.
(2) (a) At any time prior to commencement or before the conclusion of a hearing as provided in subsection (1), the department may in its discretion certify to the district court all factual and legal issues involving the adjudication or determination of the water rights at issue in the hearing, including but not limited to issues of abandonment, quantification, or relative priority dates. Certified controversies must be given priority by a water judge over all other adjudication matters.
(b) If the department fails to certify an issue as provided in this section after a timely request by a party to the hearing, the department shall include its denial to certify as part of the record of the hearing.
(c) Upon determination of the issues certified to it by the department, the court shall remand the matter to the department for further processing of the application under this chapter.