Updated on May 24, 2021
Under certain circumstances, an easement acquired by public utilities for a public purpose can be terminated by abandonment. This is possible whether an easement was originally created by prescription, grant, or eminent domain.
Generally, any easement can terminate when it is abandoned. Abandonment occurs when the easement is intentionally relinquished. The intent to abandon does not need to be express – it can be implied from the conduct of an easement owner.
However, a public road or any other public property devoted to a public use cannot be terminated or considered as vacated or abandoned by the acts of the owner of the servient tenement alone. Accordingly, temporary nonuse of the easement by the public or a temporary blockage of the use of the easement by themselves, are insufficient to prove public intent to abandon the easement and to terminate future public use of the road. Therefore, to establish an abandonment of a public easement, the public agency responsible for the easement must engage in some conduct that would indicate an intent to terminate the public rights of use of the road.
For example, easements for highways can be terminated based on a formal resolution for abandonment. This process requires a formal notice, a public hearing before the board of supervisors and a recorded order of abandonment. Nonetheless, a public easement can also be abandoned without formal resolution by the local governmental body, in the same manner as a private easement. Specifically, a public easement can terminate via nonuse by operation of law if there is a nonuse of the easement by the public, and a lack of maintenance, blockage, relocate or other facts based on conduct of the representatives of the public.
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