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Water rights weekly report for July 17. For much more news, links and detail, see the National Water Rights Digest.

The legal publication Courthouse News reported on August 31 about the challenge facing the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in working through who has rights to what water in three complex water pumping cases based in western Nevada.

Comstock Mining Inc. said on August 29 that the Nevada Department of Transportation celebrated the completion of the new Infinity Highway (formerly USA Parkway) yesterday—three months ahead of schedule. The company also said it has escrowed the sale of 54 acre-feet of water rights in two transactions that generated over $550,000. The transaction is expected to close in the first week of September and the funds will immediately be used to pay down long-term debt, consistent with the Company’s original plan.

The California Water Storage Investment Program Project Review Portal is now active. This portal will allow the public to access WSIP applications, review, and decision related documents. The Water Commission’s next meeting is on September 20.

Weekly Digest

Water rights weekly report for July 17. For much more news, links and detail, see the National Water Rights Digest.

Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt led a ten state coalition of attorneys general in filing a friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Supreme Court defending the ability of state governments to effectively regulate groundwater usage within their state. The brief urges the Court to review a recent Ninth Circuit decision that concluded, in conflict with multiple state-court decisions, that the federal government has broadly reserved rights to groundwater that preempt long-established state-law regulations.

The South Carolina Supreme Court on July 19 rejected a potentially sweeping challenge to the state’s water regulation system, which sought a declaration that it amounted to an unconstitutional taking.

Kinross Gold U.S.A., Inc., Trout Unlimited and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation announced on August 17 an agreement to protect and conserve important fish and wildlife habitat adjacent to Yellowstone National Park.

A federal court judge today found that the Bureau of Land Management failed to show how it would compensate for significant losses to wetlands and wildlife habitat caused by the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s massive groundwater pipeline development project.

The City of Aspen, Colorado, is in contract to buy two adjoining parcels of land in Woody Creek for $2.65 million to potentially use for water storage in the future.

A blueberry farm on Cockreham Island along the Skagit River will restore habitat on a nearby stream under a settlement agreement with the Washington Department of Ecology.

Weekly Digest

Water rights weekly report for July 17. For much more news, links and detail, see the National Water Rights Digest.

A water adjudication in the Pojoaque Basin north of Sante Fe that has been ongoing for 51 years was ended on June 14 with a final judgment and decree issued by federal Judge William P. Johnson. The adjudication, dubbed the Aamodt case after the Los Alamos researcher (R. Lee Aamodt ) whose name was first listed among the defendants, has been in the process of settlement for a long time.

South Dakota may by the only state to bar withdrawal of more groundwater than is replenished into the system – as a specific limit set by state law. The subject came up at a July 12 meeting of the state Watrer Management Board, when member said they were unaware of any other state with a similar law in place.

A plan to allow for diversion of excess water from the basins of the Platte River to the Republican River in Nebraska reached a rough agreement on July 13 with a favorable vote by the board of the Lower Republican Natural Resources District.

The seemingly unlikely legal hammer of eminent domain has become the weapon of choice for low-population Inyo County as it seeks to reclaim water from Los Angeles.

Rebecca Mitchell, who played an instrumental role in production of Colorado’s Water Plan, has been named the new director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

Weekly Digest

Water rights weekly report for July 3. For much more news, links and detail, see the National Water Rights Digest.

Access to clean drinking water and the nation’s water infrastructure are major concerns for Americans across the country, according to “Perspectives on America’s Water,” a new study. A total of 6,699 American adults shared their views on water-related topics in this comprehensive online study conducted on behalf of Nestlé Waters North America by the global market research firm PSB in May 2017. The study, the first of its kind to gather both the opinions of the U.S. general population and those of experts in the field, found that water is viewed as the most important natural resource in Americans’ daily lives, more so even than clean air (87 percent compared to 81 percent). Yet, 61 percent of American consumers and 66 percent of experts characterized water problems as a crisis or major issue for the United States.

How does fill in a lake, where the fill affects navigtable area, affect the public trust doctrine? The Washington Supreme Court reviewed those pieces in its July 6 decision in Chelan Basin Conservancy v. GBI Holding Co. and city of Chelan.

The Flying L Hill Country Resort will get a faster water allocation after a June 29 settlement with the Bandera (Texas) County River Authority and Groundwater District.

Weekly Digest

Water rights weekly report for July 3. For much more news, links and detail, see the National Water Rights Digest.

For years, Oregon water activists have proposed a set of serious studies to better understand how the state’s groundwater system works.
The latest attempt, a serious push at the state legislature this year, has collapsed at the Statehouse.

IC Potash on June 12 said that ICP and Intercontinental Potash Corp. (USA) have received a formal offer from the company H20 of Lea County to purchase ICPUSA’s Capitan Reef Complex Aquifer water. H20 is committed to building the required infrastructure and providing the equipment costing approximately USD$2M at no cost to ICPUSA. The potential annual revenue for ICPUSA is USD$4M to USD$6M under the proposed offer by H20.

The regionally well-known Stanley Ranch, located not far from Hawthorne, Nevada, will pass into the hands of the Walker River Pauite Tribe – together with its water rights. Long privately-owned, the ranch in recent years has been held by the Walker Basin Conservancy (which was founded at about the same time).

A water priority call in the Idaho Wood River Valley was dismissed on June 7 by state Department of Water Resources Director Gary Spackman. The rejection does not necessarily mean the request by senior water right holders lacks validity. Instead, the petition from the Big Wood and Little Wood Water Users Association was turned down on what Spackman said was a lack of standing – the association did not itself constitute an affected party.

Weekly Digest

Water rights weekly report for June 26. For much more news, links and detail, see the National Water Rights Digest.

Representative Scott Tipton (CO-03) reintroduced the Water Rights Protection Act (H.R. 2939) on June 21. The bill would uphold federal deference to state water law and prevent federal takings of privately held water rights. In 2014, the U.S. Forest Service proposed the Groundwater Resource Management Directive, which gave the federal government jurisdiction over groundwater in a manner that was inconsistent with long-established state water law. The USFS withdrew the measure but has indicated a desire to issue a revised directive in the future. The Water Rights Protection Act would prohibit the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior from requiring the transfer of water rights as a condition of any land-use permit.

A lawsuit over how much various Southern California parties should pay for water they import from the Colorado River hit another inflection point point on June 21, as a three-judge panel of a state appellate court reversed significant parts of a 2015 trial court decision.

The state of Montana’s agriculture department has an Industrial Hemp Pilot Program, but it’s running into problems because of federal restriction on water use for hemp production.

PHOTO Hemavathi water suppy canal in India.

Weekly Digest

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.

Weekly Digest

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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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