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Water rights weekly report for June 12. For much more news, links and detail, see the National Water Rights Digest.

In a June 13 court decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco sweepingly affirmed the Gila River Indian Community’s positions regarding numerous water policy issues in the Upper Valley of the Gila River. Of particular importance is the principle that water rights which go unused for a consecutive period of five years are permanently forfeited, no matter when the water was originally appropriated.

Utahns are invited to weigh in on a set of recommendations for a 50-year state water strategy before those recommendations are finalized and delivered to Gov. Gary Herbert. The draft recommendations have been written over the last four years by the State Water Strategy Advisory Team, a volunteer group of water experts including researchers, the Utah climatologist, water managers, agricultural representatives, environmental advocates, elected officials and others.

Notification letters sent recently to Flathead-area water right owners from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation’s) Water Adjudication Bureau are part of the agency’s ongoing claims examination process. Kathy Olsen, manager of DNRC’s Kalispell Regional Water Office, said the Department has been directed by the Montana Water Court to examine water right claims in Flathead River Basins 76L and 76LJ. The process is not connected with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Water Compact or with the proposed Montana Artesian water bottling operation.

A June 16 report in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Journal Sentinel said that newly-filed court documents showed state employees expressing concerns, through emails, about heavy well development in high-irrigation areas. The development, they suggested, could harm area streams and water bodies.

The Nevada capital Carson City on June 15 reached an agreement involving the nearby city of Minden, Douglas County and the Indian Hills General Improvement District to obtain additional water rights.

Weekly Digest

Water rights weekly report for June 12. For much more news, links and detail, see the National Water Rights Digest.

On June 9 New Mexico State Engineer Tom Blaine delivered an order confirming that ranchers have the right to use water for their cattle in the Lincoln National Forest. In 2016, an endangered mouse was found in the forest, leading to the blocking of some areas of the forest for cattle use.

On June 7, U.S. District Court Judge Jesus Bernal granted the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians a motion to lift the stay on legal proceedings regarding the Tribe’s water rights.

Residents around the Oregon side of the Klamath Basin trooped to the Klamath County Circuit Court rooms on June 7 and 8 to listen to options for moving the Klamath adjudication ahead.

Zion Market Research, the market research group announced the analysis report titled “Water Trading Market: Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends, and Forecasts 2016–2024”.

The Bureau of Reclamation’s June 2017 Total Water Supply Available (TWSA) forecast for the Yakima Basin indicates the water supply will fully satisfy senior and junior water rights this irrigation season.

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Probably you won’t get a tremendous amount of argument to the idea that California could use something of a repair job on its water administration system. You’ll get none here.

Whether the new assembly-passed bill seeking to do that will be the answer a lot of eople are looking for is another issue.

Here’s a description of it from Assemblymember Adam Gray, its chief sponsor:

“AB 313 establishes a new water rights management structure, creating a new Water Rights Division in the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) to handle all water rights matters. The shift removes conflicts of interest and built-in biases in the current system. The State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) currently exercises vast control over California’s water rights. The SWRCB has the power to write regulations, initiate enforcement actions, and conduct hearings in its own courtroom in which Board staff act as the prosecution and Board members act as judge and jury.”

Okay, so a new agency would be created. How would that help improve matters as compared to doing a renovation on the old one (the Water Resources Control Board)?

There’s actually a case here. The new agency would come with administrative law judges who would decide cases in a court-like setting, rather than by administrative fiat. This would be closer to a water court-type system such as many states have. Gray’s argument is that by spreading the authority around, things are less likely to become choked up in a system dominated by a few administrators.
The water court-type system isn’t exactly setting land speed records for adjudicative action either, though. In most states where that kind of setup is in place, water cases tend to take a very long time.

There is sometimes a lack of coordination in the water court system that can mean some weakness the system of water administration, which would be counter to what this bill is trying to accomplish. The idea here is supposed to involve a more stable and thoughtfully-developed water system.

It may, however, be somewhat less susceptible to pressure from various interest groups, which has long been an important part of what bedevils California water administration, and has ever since California statehood.

Some of the states with relatively efficient water management systems, such as Idaho and Arizona, seem to get by on a kind of hybrid, a mix of state administration with strong court involvement. That’s what allowed Idaho to pull together within one generation – a remarkable instance of speed and agility – the adjudication of the Snake River Basin, the largest stream adjudication in the country. That and an atmosphere of cooperation among the parties involved.
And that may be the other key thing to watch out for.

In the end, the structure may matter a good deal less than the willingness of the people involved to effectively work together. Until that willingness kicks in, the best structure in the work isn’t likely to solve a state’s water management problems.

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Water rights weekly report for May 22. For much more news, links and detail, see the National Water Rights Digest.

California lawmakers acted decisively Tuesday to make fixes to the state’s broken water management structure. Assembly Bill 313, introduced by Assemblyman Adam C. Gray (D-Merced), overwhelmingly passed the California Assembly with an initial 55-0 vote. The bill makes necessary reforms to how the state manages water rights.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began flood fight operations throughout the Central U.S., along the Mississippi and tributary rivers, in response to heavy rainfall on April 28-30 . High water flows are impacting navigation and stressing federal and non-federal levee systems.

The Bureau of Reclamation announces that Klamath River emergency dilution flows will not be required in 2017 to mitigate the effects of a parasite called Ceratanova shasta (or C. shasta) on outmigrating juvenile salmon. The announcement is made following weeks of monitoring parasite spore concentrations and prevalence of C. shasta infection among outmigrating salmon, and monitoring conducted by Oregon State University, the Karuk Tribe and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Bureau of Reclamation has released the Finding of No Significant Impact for the approval to transfer recaptured Restoration Flows from Friant Division long-term contractors to Pleasant Valley Water District during 2017. The FONSI is based on the analysis of potential impacts analyzed and disclosed in the 2013 Recirculation of Recaptured Water Year 2013-2017 San Joaquin River Restoration Program Flows Environmental Assessment.

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Water rights weekly report for May 22. For much more news, links and detail, see the National Water Rights Digest.

The New York Times on May 27 published a guest opinion from an environmental activist concerned about the future of water releases into the Upper Delaware river system in New York’s Catskills. Jeff Skelding of the Friends of the Upper Delaware wrote that “the Upper Delaware is a fragile ecosystem, and now it is threatened by a bitter dispute between New Jersey and New York City over water availability, and how much should be released into the river for the fishery and downstream states from reservoirs that provide water to the city.”

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper on May 21 signed into law Senate Bill 117, aimed at allowing use of water stored in federal reservoirs. Use of water for growing hemp or cannabis from those reservoirs, even by long-time water right holders, has been called into question because, though both are legal to grow in Colorado under state law, they still are considered highly restricted substances under federal law.

What happens when water users sell off their water rights, over a large area? That has been happening, to a degree at least, in southern Colorado’s Arkansas River area. A story by the area’s National Public Radio station noted that “Without many water rights left there, Heimerich says current residents rely heavily on a single correctional facility for access to full-time jobs. He calls Crowley County the poster child of an agricultural community that’s lost much of its water.”

A May report in the Arizona Capitol Times said Governor Doug Ducey plans to increase staffing at the state Department of Water Resources, main in the area of federal water adjudications. That may presage a more aggressive stance by the state on regional water allocations.

The Idaho Water Resource Board has approved spending $109,273 with Ralston Hydraulic Services Inc. of Moscow for the second phase of the Lewiston Regional Deep Aquifer Study.

Weekly Digest

Water rights weekly report for May 22. For much more news, links and detail, see the National Water Rights Digest.

From U.S. Representative Scott Tipton, a perspective piece on water rights: “Too often, issues like forest management and water rights don’t make it into the news, but they have profound impacts on Coloradans. I remain committed to ensuring voices from the West are heard in the policy discussions happening in Washington.”

The Montana Farm Bureau on May 19 released a statement supporting the Water Rights Protection Act, which would eliminate a requirement that certain grazing water rights be released to federal agencies in return for permissions to graze.

At the Oroville Dam in northern California: “The flood control spillway flow is currently at 20,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). Inflow is approximately 12,946 cfs. Current lake elevation is at 829.98 feet. Hyatt Powerplant is currently discharging 5,000 cfs. Total Feather River flow is 19,550 cfs.”

An ambitious Nevada water management bill, Assembly Bill 298, appears to have ground to a halt in the Nevada legislative process for this year.
It did pass the state Assembly on April 26 by a vote of 26-16, but may have run aground in the Senate.

PHOTO Spillway from the Oroville Dam in California (from the California Department of Water Resources)

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Water rights weekly report for May 15. For much more news, links and detail, see the National Water Rights Digest.

Oklahoma state is facing a budget deficit. Should it sell some of its waster rights to thirsty Texas to help balance the books? The idea is coming up for discussion again partly because of proposals by former Oklahoma Governor David Walters.

A new study finds that when it comes to allocating water from the Upper Deschutes River for irrigation purposes, less is more. Findings indicate that the current system encourages inefficient use of water by senior water rights holders and very efficient use of water by junior water rights holders, resulting in higher crop yields and economic value on farms that have implemented practices to improve water use efficiency.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army sent a letter to governors today soliciting input from states on a new definition of protected waters that is in-line with a Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion in the 2006 Rapanos v. United States case. Scalia’s definition explains that federal oversight should extend to “relatively permanent” waters and wetlands with a “continuous surface connection” to large rivers and streams.

The governing board of trustees of the College of Southern Idaho at Twin Falls decided May 9 to buy water rights to Pristine Springs, a nearby geothermal aquifer.

Weekly Digest

Water rights weekly report for May 1. For much more news, links and detail, see the National Water Rights Digest.

The National Park Service is putting its water shortage action plan into effect, following the state’s call to cease withdrawing water from Annie Creek. Crater Lake National Park staff are asking all visitors and employees to use water wisely during the water supply shortage.

The San Luis Obispo Coastkeepers and Los Padres ForestWatch, two central-coastal California environmental groups, on May 5 sued the Santa Maria Water Conservation District to demand a different schedule on water be released to help with preservaton of the Southern California steelhead trout.

A First Nations geographer, a legal historian and a global expert on water access and sustainability will be asking — and answering — big questions about water at the Calgary Institute for Humanities (CIH) 37th annual community forum, May 12. The forum, Water in the West: Rights to Water/Rights of Water, will explore environmental concerns about water and First Nations’ perspectives on the precious resource. “First Nations are tremendously impacted by water issues, from access to clean water to resource development. And of course there’s also a spiritual dimension to water in almost every culture,” says Jim Ellis, a professor of English and director of the CIH, whose mission is to support and promote the values of humanities-based research.

Weekly Digest

Water rights weekly report for May 1. For much more news, links and detail, see the National Water Rights Digest.

Fracking has not contaminated groundwater in northwestern West Virginia, but accidental spills of fracking wastewater may pose a threat to surface water in the region, according to a new study led by scientists at Duke University.

After a long-running public records battle with a conservation organization, the Utah Division of Water Resources has published online detailed records of water use information around the state.

The California State Water Resources Control Board on April 26 rescinded the water supply “stress test” requirements and remaining mandatory conservation standards for urban water suppliers while keeping in place the water use reporting requirements and prohibitions against wasteful practices.

High water levels at Lake Ontario have resulted in flooding in some areas (the Soda Point area in New York for one example), and questions have arisen about whether water use regulations may have been involved. The managing agency, the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board, said not.

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Water rights weekly report for March 20. For much more news, links and detail, see the National Water Rights Digest.

Voters in the Blackfeet Nation on April 21 voted in favor of the Blackfeet Water Compact and Blackfeet Water Rights Settlement Act.
It was the last step in putting the agreement into action. That measure had been approved last year by Congress and was signed by President Barack Obama. Under its terms, water rights for the six drainages which are on the reservation will be held by the tribe.

A report released on April 18 argues that environmental water use rules in California have had severe costs for human water users across the Delta region. The document was prepared by David L. Sunding for the Committee for Delta Reliability and the Southern California Water Committee.

The Arizona Department of Water Resources will be making an extensive effort to measure water levels in wells in the Prescott Active Management Area and the Verde Basin. Every year the Department’s field services technicians collect water levels in a statewide network of about 1,600 to 1,800 “index” wells that have typically been measured annually over the last several decades. There are roughly 250 groundwater index wells measured annually or semi-annually in the Prescott AMA/Verde Basin region.

The 2017 public review draft of Oregon’s Integrated Water Resources Strategy is now available for public comment. A briefer summarizes what’s new in this 2017 version and opportunities to comment. You can also view the “Note to Reader” section at the beginning of the document to help orient you to what elements are new to this version, where to locate new sections or recommended actions, and what to expect for the remainder of 2017.

Weekly Digest