Category: Weekly Digest

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

The Bureau of Reclamation has released two funding opportunities for fiscal year 2018 through its Drought Response Program, which is part of the Department of the Interior’s WaterSMART program. These funding opportunities are available for entities to develop drought contingency plans and build long-term solutions to drought.

The U.S. Senate has confirmed Brenda Burman as the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner. She is the first woman to ever lead the Bureau.

Seniority in water rights is in many places a precious asset, but not a guarantee that the right won’t be taken away. That may happen in the case of Martha Carr, who lives in Burbank, California but owns property in South Dakota. He was the eventual inheritor of Robert Wittke, a settler who had filed for the right at French Creek near Custer in 1878.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has held off until at least mid-December intervention in a water use battle over the San Saba River, where are landowners say that upstream farmers have been over-pumping water.
They maintain the upstream users have been pumping in excess of their permitted water rights, and have asked for a watermaster to control that use.

The Bureau of Reclamation and State of Utah are initiating negotiations for a water exchange contract, which proposes exchanging the state’s assigned Green River water right for use of Colorado River Storage Project water released from Flaming Gorge Dam. The negotiation meeting is scheduled for Monday, December 4, 2017, at 1:00 p.m. at the Dixie Convention Center, 1835 South Convention Center Drive, St. George, Utah.

Will the Governor’s Drought Interagency Coordinating Group recommend to Governor Ducey that he add the approaching “water year” to the State’s lengthy string of official drought years? Or will the panel recommend that the official dry spell designation end in Arizona, thus following in the footsteps of California, where that state’s drought designation was lifted in the wake of its extraordinarily wet winter? Considering that much of Arizona remains in the same long-term state of drought it has experienced since the mid-1990s, the ICG’s recommendation for maintaining the declaration was not the toughest of calls, as it turned out.

Weekly Digest

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

The state of Oklahoma on October 10 approved a major water diversion request by the city of Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City had asked the state for a regular permit to use 115,000 acre feet from the Kiamichi River and Sardis Lake for general municipal uses. The state noted “the application was protested by 85 persons including entities, 25 of whom were recognized as parties at the date of the hearing,” which was held on August 21 to 24.

The state of Oregon positioned itself in late October to reject a proposal from Nestle Water for its plan to bottle water from the Cascade Locks area in the Columbia River Gorge. The proposal for a Nestle water bottling plant would involve an exchange of .5 cfs of spring water, presently being used for a state Department of Fish & Wildlife salmon hatchery, for an equivalent amount of Cascade Locks city groundwater.

In a critical ruling for Wisconsin’s waters, Dane County Circuit Court ordered the DNR to vacate, or invalidate, seven high-capacity well permits and remand one for consideration. Clean Wisconsin sued the DNR in October of 2016, after the agency issued a series of high-capacity well permits that disregarded its own scientific analysis of the impacts the wells would have on neighboring water bodies. The proposed wells would be located primarily in the Central Sands region of Wisconsin, where groundwater depletion is already a serious problem.

After five years of drought, the 2017 water year brought unexpectedly heavy precipitation, ranking second only to 1983 as California’s wettest year for statewide runoff. The dramatic swing in water conditions highlights the need to develop better long-range weather forecasting to cope with the state’s highly variable annual precipitation.

The Bureau of Reclamation has released a Finding of No Significant Impact for Alternative 1 from the Bureau of Land Management’s 2014 Final Environmental Assessment for the Southern Nevada Intertie (Harry Allen to Eldorado 500 kV Transmission) Project.

A new Boise River system feasibility study has been launched to investigate the possibility of increasing surface water storage in the Boise River watershed by raising the height of up to three dams on the Boise River. The Bureau of Reclamation and the Idaho Water Resource Board (IWRB) are working together on options to increase water storage capacity at Arrowrock, Anderson Ranch, and/or Lucky Peak dams.

Weekly Digest

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

With an eye to long-term, binational cooperation and to managing a more stable Colorado River System, representatives of the United States, Mexico and the Colorado River Basin States of the U.S. on Wednesday celebrated the “entry into force” of an agreement deemed essential to the System’s future.
The American signing, conducted at an “entry into force” ceremony in Santa Fe, N.M., applies the final flourish to the intensely negotiated agreement known as “Minute 323.”

The Bureau of Reclamation has completed an analysis of purchasing up to 6,000 acre-feet of groundwater from Modesto Properties for the East Bear Creek Unit of the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Complex, under authorization of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act.

Local Utah engineering firms Hansen, Allen & Luce and Bowen Collins & Associates have partnered to study how Utah collects water use data and how the system could be improved.
The project is expected to cost about $300,000 and will be done with cooperation of the state Division of Water Resources.

The Bureau of Reclamation is preparing an environmental assessment (EA) for the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program, Proposed First Increment Extension. Reclamation, working with the states of Wyoming, Colorado, and Nebraska, water users, and environmental and conservation organizations, proposes to extend the First Increment of the basin-wide, cooperative Recovery Implementation Program by 13 years. Reclamation is doing this to meet its obligations under the Endangered Species Act. (photo)

Weekly Digest

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