Nevada users seek quick resolution to water ruling
Associated Press Writer
(AP) – State water officials and others said Tuesday a quick resolution, possibly a special legislative session, is needed to clear up confusion caused by a Nevada Supreme Court ruling that raises questions about thousands of water rights around the state.
“The longer it goes without clarification the more complicated it will become,” said Gordon DePaoli, a Reno water lawyer whose clients include the Truckee Meadows Water Authority.
State water resource managers held a workshop in Carson City at the direction of state legislators, who last month said the issue was too complicated to take up in the waning hours of a six-day special session called to address the state’s budget crisis.
In a unanimous ruling, justices said the state engineer failed to act within a year as required by law at the time on SNWA’s 1989 applications in Spring Valley near the Nevada-Utah line. The water rights are part of the authority’s plan to pump tens of thousands of gallons of rural groundwater via pipeline to supplement Las Vegas’ drinking water from the Colorado River.
Instead, hearings on the applications weren’t held for more than a decade later, yet people or groups who sought to file protests were told the protest period had lapsed years ago.
The Supreme Court sent the case back to a lower court to determine if SNWA needed to re-notice and reopen the protest period, or start the process over by refiling its applications.
SNWA, out of caution, refiled its applications the very same day. Many other municipal water agencies soon followed suit, fearing their seniority on pending applications would be bumped if the ruling was interpreted as applying to any water rights not acted upon with a year.
Many at Tuesday’s hearing also testified that the one-year rule is archaic and should be scrapped.
Meanwhile, the state water engineer on Monday petitioned the Supreme Court to reconsider its ruling and clarify that it only applies to SNWA’s Spring Valley water rights applications.