Friday, February 24, 2017

Klamath Irrigation v. United States

The United States Court of Federal Claims recently issued its decision in the case of Klamath Irrigation v. United States. The case dealt with a taking of water rights by the federal government.

The case started when a group of landowners, irrigation districts, and private corporations in California and Oregon alleged that the United States Bureau of Reclamation had effected a taking of their water rights in 2001. The plaintiffs were all water users in the Klamath River Basin. The Klamath Project is managed and operated by the United States Bureau of Reclamation, and is subject to the requirements of the Endangered Species Act. In early 2001, the Bureau determined that the year would be a critically dry year due to drought, and that three species of fish (Lost River sucker, shortnose sucker, and SONCC coho salmon) would likely be affected. As a result, the Bureau terminated delivery of Klamath Project water. The plaintiffs claimed that the Bureau's action of terminating the delivery of water from the Klamath Project constituted a taking of their water without just compensation in violation of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The primary issue in the case was whether the plaintiffs' taking claims should be analyzed as regulatory takings or as physical takings. The distinction is important because physical takings are per se takings that require the government to compensate the owner without any further inquiry, but regulatory takings are analyzed and compensated differently. The Court looked to prior cases and precedent to answer the question. In the end, the Court determined that the federal government's action in this case should be analyzed as physical takings rather than as regulatory takings.

To read the full court opinion, click here.

Friday, February 17, 2017

ABA Water Law Conference

The American Bar Association is holding its 35th Annual Water Law Conference at the Loews Hollywood Hotel in Los Angeles, California, on March 27-29, 2017. The Conference will bring together prominent water attorneys and other water professionals from around the country. Smith Hartvigsen has played a key role in the Conference’s development, with Nathan Bracken chairing the meeting. Craig Smith will also speak on recent developments involving the public trust doctrine. Other topics include agricultural water conservation, state and federal conflicts over groundwater management, climate-related impacts on infrastructure, and other issues. The deadline for early registration is Monday, February 20. Click here for the conference brochure and here for the general hotel and conference logistics information.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Public Meeting Concerning the General Adjudication in City Creek Area

The Utah Division of Water Rights has set a public meeting to discuss the general adjudication of water rights in the City Creek area in Salt Lake County East Division of the Utah Lake / Jordan River Drainage (Area 57, Book 9). The City Creek area generally includes the City Creek drainage in the mountains east of Salt Lake City and a portion of Salt Lake City from 700 East on the east to 300 West on the west, and from 900 South on the south to the Salt Lake County / Davis County line on the north (see map below). The following information is from the public meeting notice:

What: Public Meeting
Who: Water Users within the City Creek area
When: March 15, 2017, 6:00 to 7:00 pm
Where: Department of Natural Resources, Room 1050, 1594 W. North Temple, Salt Lake City
Purpose: In accordance with Chapter 73-4, Utah Code Annotated, and the Third Judicial District Court (Civil No. 365729826), the State Engineer is authorized and ordered to conduct a general determination of the rights to the use of all water, both surface and underground, within the drainage area of the City Creek Subdivision, Salt Lake County East Division, of the Utah Lake and Jordan River drainage in Salt Lake County. Efforts are currently underway and over the next few months, representatives of the Division of Water Rights will be working in the City Creek area to survey existing water rights and investigate water user's claims. Representatives from the Division of Water Rights will be available during this time to discuss the adjudication process, review water rights within the area, and answer questions. If individuals cannot attend, but have questions regarding the adjudication process or water rights within the City Creek area, please contact Blake Bingham at (801)538-7345.
1.  Introduction (Blake Bingham, P.E. - Adjudication Program Manager)
2.  Adjudication Process Presentation
3.  Public Comments and Questions

For more information, click here.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Water Rights Certification Course

The Rural Water Association of Utah, in conjunction with the Utah Division of Water Rights, offers a two-day water rights training course. The course covers a variety of water right topics, including priority, change applications, water rights vs. water shares, water right title, well regulations, and much more. At the end of the training course, there is a certification exam that you can take.

This course is very informative, and I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to learn about Utah water rights. I took the course when it was first offered in 2014 (in fact, I was the first person to complete the certification exam), and I learned a lot from attending.

The course is being offered on April 6-7, 2017. For more information about the course, click here.