HELENA, Mont. — The Montana Supreme Court on Feb. 19 denied a motion by a water rights claimant to file an out-of-time appeal of a state water court denial of his claims as unsupported by evidence (Tom Pratt, et al. v. Russell E. Blalack, No. DA 19-0086, Mont. Sup., 2019 Mont. LEXIS 86).
SAN FRANCISCO — A California appeals panel on Feb. 22 reversed a trial court ruling in an abandoned water rights case, finding that a water district’s petition for a peremptory writ of mandate was untimely (Millview County Water District v. State Water Resources Control Board, et al., No. A146605, Calif. App., 1st Dist., Div. 1, 2019 Cal. App. LEXIS 152).
SPOKANE, Wash. — A Washington state appeals panel on Feb. 26 affirmed a decision by the state Pollution Control Hearings Board that an industrial park’s water system does not qualify as a municipal water supplier (Crown West Realty, LLC v. Pollution Control Hearings Board, et al., No. 35610-8-III, Wash. App., Div. 3, 2019 Wash. App. LEXIS 433).
LOS ANGELES — A California federal judge on March 5 awarded two environmental groups $2.92 million in attorney fees and $297,328 in costs as the prevailing parties in an Endangered Species Act (ESA) case against the operator of dam on the Santa Clara River that allegedly resulted in the loss of an endangered fish species (Wishtoyo Foundation, et al. v. United Water Conservation District, No. 16-3869, C.D. Calif., S. Div.).
LOS ANGELES — A California water rate lawsuit was remanded to a trial court on March 4 after a state appeals panel said the administrative records are insufficient to determine whether the groundwater rates charged by a water district to a city for three years “bore a reasonable relationship to the burdens on or the benefits of its conservation activities” (City of San Buenaventura v. United Water Conservation District, et al., No. B251810, Calif. App., 2nd Dist., Div. 6, 2019 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 1523).
DENVER — The Colorado Supreme Court on Feb. 19 affirmed dismissal of an objection by a water and sanitation district to a plan to use additional sources of replacement water under another water district’s decreed augmentation plan (Well Augmentation Subdistrict of the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District, et al. v. Centennial Water & Sanitation District, et al., Colo. Sup., 2019 Colo. LEXIS 146).
FRESNO, Calif. — A federal judge in California on Feb. 26 ruled that federal agencies performed the proper analysis for the impact water contracts would have on the Central Valley Project, a federal water management project in California, and he denied environmental organizations’ claim that a 2015 document issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) was invalid (Natural Resources Defense Council, et al. v. David Bernhardt, No. 05-1207, E.D. Calif., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 30649).
New developments in the following multiplaintiff, interstate or notable water rights cases are marked in boldface type.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — In his first State of the State address, California Gov. Gavin Newsome, D., on Feb. 12 said he supports a single tunnel for the state’s WaterFix project, a move that could substantially lower the project’s $15 billion price.
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — An association of people who use a large California lake on Jan. 15 sued Monterey County and related entities in the San Luis Obispo County Superior Court, alleging inverse condemnation for drawing more water from the lake than permitted by the state when the lake was created (Nacimiento Regional Water Management Advisory Committee v. Monterey County Water Resources Agency, et al., No. 19CVP-0010, Calif. Super., San Luis Obispo Co.).
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Four fishermen’s groups and a Native American tribe on Jan. 16 sued the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, alleging that recent agreements between the two defendants violate the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and other water project enabling agreements (North Coast Rivers Alliance, et al. v. Department of Water Resources, et al., No. 34-2019-80003057, Calif. Super., Sacramento Co.).
RENO, Nev. — A Nevada federal judge on Feb. 4 denied a motion to reconsider an order requiring a water district to replace water it wrongfully diverted from a river, saying that the motion is untimely and that the court’s action was for restitution under a water settlement agreement and not designed to punish the water district (United States v. Board of Directors of the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District, et al., No. 95-757, D. Nev.).
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A California county and the state environmental department on Jan. 14 told the state Supreme Court that it should find that the permitting of water wells is not subject to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), Pub. Res. Code § 21000 et seq. (Protecting Our Water & Environmental Resources, et al. v. Stanislaus County, et al., No. S251709, Calif. Sup.).
SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Supreme Court on Jan. 11 dismissed an appeal from a water rights adjudication because the plaintiff lacked standing to challenge the state engineer’s determination as it applies to other water rights holders (EnerVest, Ltd. v. Utah State Engineer, et al., No. 20160394, Utah Sup., 2019 Utah LEXIS 2).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A District of Columbia federal judge on Feb. 4 ruled that the U.S. Forest Service was justified in invoking some Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) exceptions but not others in an environmental group’s challenge of Nestle Waters North America Inc.’s license to take water from the San Bernardino National Forest (Story of Stuff Project v. United States Forest Service, No. 18-170, D. D.C., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17158).
PHOENIX — An Arizona appeals panel on Feb. 5 vacated summary judgment in a water service dispute between the city of Prescott and two out-of-town property owners because a jury could find that the city had left the matter open (Hidden Heights LLC, et al. v. Prescott, Arizona, No. 1 CA-CV 18-0160, Ariz. App., Div. 1, 2019 Ariz. App. LEXIS 110).
FRESNO, Calif. — A California appeals court on Jan. 31 affirmed an attorney fees award in a water project case, agreeing with a trial court that the plaintiffs’ action conferred a significant benefit on the general public and that the plaintiffs were allowed to privately enforce state environmental law (Oakdale Groundwater Alliance, et al. v. Oakdale Irrigation District, No. F077281, Calif. App., 5th Dist., 2019 Cal. App. LEXIS 788).
CHARLESTON, S.C. — Eighteen agricultural and business organizations on Feb. 1 notified the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals that they have voluntarily dismissed their appeal of a federal district court order that vacated and enjoined the Trump administration’s so-called “Suspension Rule” for the Clean Water Rule: Definition of "Waters of the United States," 80 Fed. Reg. 37,054, June 29, 2015 (South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, et al. v. Andrew Wheeler, et al., No. 18-1964, 4th Cir.).
LOS ANGELES — A California appeals court on Jan. 28 affirmed dismissal of an agricultural association’s lawsuit that sought to overturn water rate increases enacted by a water district during the state’s four-year drought (Goleta Ag Preservation v. Goleta Water District, No. B277227, Calif. App., 2nd Dist., Div. 6, 2019 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 648).
PORTLAND, Maine — Ralph I. Lancaster, the Maine lawyer who up until August was the special master in Florida’s U.S. Supreme Court water rights lawsuit against Georgia, died Jan. 22, according to Lancaster’s law firm.