NEW ORLEANS — The Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Aug. 28 affirmed that a voting scheme for a large aquifer authority does not disenfranchise voters because it has a narrow purpose of ensuring that low-population, high-water use regions get equal representation on the authority board (League of United Latin American Citizens v. Edwards Aquifer Authority, No. 18-50655, 5th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 25999).
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The U.S. Supreme Court special master presiding Florida’s interstate water lawsuit against Georgia on Aug. 29 moved oral arguments about the criteria for equitable apportionment from December to Oct. 17 (Florida v. Georgia, No. 142 Orig., U.S. Sup.).
SAN FRANCISCO — The San Diego County Water Authority’s state court lawsuit against the Metropolitan Water District of California is about to get its fourth judge in nine years after the court on Sept. 6 sustained the authority’s motion for a peremptory disqualification of Judge Teri L. Jackson of the San Francisco County Superior Court (San Diego County Water Authority v. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, et al., No. CPF-10-510830, Calif. Super., San Francisco Co.).
BRUNSWICK, Ga. — A group of business intervenors in a Sept. 6 brief ask a Georgia federal judge to reconsider his decision not to vacate the 2015 Clean Water Rule and to instead remand it to federal agencies for revamping (State of Georgia, et al. v. Andrew Wheeler, et al., No. 15-79, S.D. Ga., Brunswick Div.).
RIVERSIDE, Calif. — A California federal judge on Aug. 14 denied a motion by the United States to reconsider his ruling that a Native American tribe lacks standing to assert a claim for how much groundwater it is entitled to, saying the motion is a “thinly veiled attempt to relitigate the summary judgment motions” (Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians v. Coachella Valley Water District, et al., No. 13-00833, C.D. Calif.).
BOISE, Idaho — The Idaho Supreme Court on Sept. 5 affirmed in part and reversed in part a trial court’s ruling on a Native American tribe’s water rights in a water adjudication proceeding (In Re: Coeur d’Alene-Spokane River Basin Adjudication, [United States and Coeur d’Alene Tribe v. Idaho, et al.], Nos. 45381, 45382, 45383, 45384, Idaho Sup., 2019 Ida. LEXIS 147).
BRUNSWICK, Ga. — A Georgia federal judge on Aug. 21 ruled that the 2015 Clean Water Rule is unlawful under the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Administrative Procedure Act and she remanded the rule to the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers while leaving in place her existing preliminary injunction (Georgia, et al. v. Andrew R. Wheeler, et al., No. 15-79, S.D. Ga., Brunswick Div., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 142151).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Removing state water quality reviews from the federal licensing process for hydroelectric dams threatens the nation’s waterways and creates confusion among the circuit courts on when states waive their authority to conduct the water studies, two fishing groups battling a ruling in favor of an Indian tribe tell the U.S. Supreme Court in an Aug. 26 petition for certiorari (California Trout, et al. v. Hoopa Valley Tribe, et al., No. 19-257, U.S. Sup., 2019 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 3572).
SANTA FE, N.M. — The New Mexico Court of Appeals on Aug. 13 affirmed a lower court’s decision that a landowner had no water right claim and had only rights to livestock watering, based on a state statute that governs the partial forfeiture of water rights (New Mexico ex rel. Office of the State Engineer v. Toby Romero, No. A-1-CA-36619, 2019 N.M. App. LEXIS 106).
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers disregarded its own policies and procedures when it lowered water levels in Lake Okeechobee, a Florida lake, causing a “man-made drought,” United States Sugar Corp. alleges in an Aug. 1 complaint filed in a Florida federal court (United States Sugar Corporation v. Lieutenant General Todd T. Semonite, et al., No. 19-81086, S.D. Fla.).
AUSTIN, Texas — The city of Houston sued the state of Texas and the Brazos River Authority on July 22 in the Texas 261st Judicial District Court, Travis County, alleging that a recently passed bill requiring it to sell its rights to a proposed reservoir violates the Texas Constitution and exceeds the state’s authority (Houston v. Texas, et al., No. D-1-GN-19-004189, Texas District Court, Travis Co.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States in a July 1 reply brief urged the U.S. Court of Federal Claims to dismiss a breach of contract and water takings lawsuit against it by the city of Fresno and 17 water districts and municipalities, claiming that because the plaintiffs do not “own a cognizable property interest” in the Central Valley Project, the court lacks jurisdiction over their claims (Fresno, et al. v. United States, No. 16-1276, Fed. Clms.).
STOCKTON, Calif. — San Joaquin County, Calif., on July 23 sued the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and Gregg Drilling LLC in state court, seeking an injunction against geophysical well-drilling in furtherance of a proposed statewide water supply conveyance infrastructure project within portions of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta (San Joaquin v. California Department of Water Resources, et al., No. STK-CV-UWM-2019-0009452, Calif Super., San Joaquin Co.).
DENVER — Oklahoma and five business associations on Aug. 6 told the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals that a federal judge erred by denying a preliminary injunction against the 2015 federal Clean Water Rule “in conflict with the decisions of other courts across the country” (Oklahoma, ex rel. Mike Hunter, et al. v. U.S. Environmental Protection Administration, et al., No. 19-5055, 10th Cir.).
New developments in the following multiplaintiff, interstate or notable water rights cases are marked in boldface type.
SALT LAKE CITY — A dispute over the alleged misappropriation of water from an Indian Tribe’s federally protected water right has gone to the summary judgment stage, with the tribe arguing July 29 in response to the defendants’ motion and in reply to its own motion in Utah federal court that a tribal court’s award of damages to the tribe should be enforced based on comity (Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation v. Gregory D. McKee, et al., No. 2:18-cv-314, D. Utah).
RIVERSIDE, Calif. — A California federal judge should look at all the evidence and reconsider his ruling that a Native American tribe lacks standing to assert water rights claims because the standing issue is an important legal question that the judge “should decide on a complete record,” intervenor the United States says in a Aug. 5 reply brief (Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, et al. v. Coachella Valley Water District, et al., No. 5:13-cv-883, C.D. Calif.).
HELENA, Mont. — The Montana Supreme Court on July 30 affirmed a water court’s decision that a shrinking city was entitled to a lower amount of water because its original volume was largely unused and deemed abandoned (Fort Peck v. Montana, No. DA 18-0697, Mont. Sup., 2019 Mont. LEXIS 174).
CARSON CITY, Nev. — The Nevada Supreme Court on July 19 reversed the conviction of a state water official for extorting money in exchange for water rights permits and partially reversed the conviction of a water district hydrologist for conspiracy, misconduct of a public officer and money laundering for using his office to facilitate the securing of water rights (Robert Alan Coache v. Nevada, No. 72397, and Michael E. Johnson v. Nevada, No. 72401, Nev. Sup., 2019 Nev. Unpub. LEXIS 809 and 2019 Nev. Unpub. LEXIS 810).
REDDING, Calif. — A California state court judge on July 29 enjoined the Westlands Water District from taking any action on a project to raise the height of the Shasta Dam until after the court conducts a trial on the state’s lawsuit to stop the project (California, ex rel. Attorney General Xavier Becerra v. Westlands Water District, et al., No. 19-192487, Calif. Super., Shasta Co.).