January 13, 2011

Supreme Court refuses to hear water dispute

By Supreme Court refuses to hear water dispute

Author:  Damien M. Schiff

This week, the Supreme Court denied cert in Grant County Black Sands Irrigation District v. United States Bureau of Reclamation.  PLF had filed an amicus brief on behalf of several water districts here in California urging the Court to take up the case, which concerned the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals' interpretation of "Section 9(e)" water contracts.  Under federal reclamation law, usually the feds put up front the cost of building the canals, dams, etc., and then charge the water users over a 40-year period for those costs.  Once everything has been paid, the feds transfer the right to the works and the water to the users.  In Grant County, the water users had thought that they were paying all these years for the usual bargain, but were sorely surprised when the Bureau of Reclamation told them that because they had only "short-term" water contracts, they were basically out of luck and were in the perpetual position of being mere water utility customers.  PLF asked the high court to review the case because of vague language in the appellate court's decision that could be read to apply the case's bad rule to "long-term" Section 9(e) contracts.

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