NV Supreme Court Issues Opinion Protecting Senior Users

By: Lisa Mae Gage and Therese Ure

On September 27, 2017, the Supreme Court of the State of Nevada issued an opinion concluding the longstanding battle between the Nevada State Engineer, Nevada Division of Water Resources and Kobeh Valley Ranch LLC (“KVR”), and Eureka County, Kenneth F. Benson, Diamond Cattle Company, LLC., and Michel and Margaret Ann Etcheverry Family LP regarding the Nevada State Engineer’s issuance of water use permits to KVR. This dispute involved KVR’s proposed future mitigation plan. After several appeals and remands before the Nevada Division Water Resources, the Seventh District Court in Eureka County and the Supreme Court of Nevada, the matter ended.

Supreme Court Opinion

The Etcheverry family, among others, fought for over seven years to protect their senior permitted and vested water rights from the impacts proposed by a series of change applications filed by Kobeh Valley Ranch. Evidence presented before the Nevada Division of Water Resources and the Courts showed conflicts to senior users would unarguably occur. Kobeh Valley Ranch asserted that it may be able to mitigate the conflicts through a proposed future mitigation plan. Without any guarantee that a proposed future mitigation plan would in fact protect the senior rights of water users, senior users fought back. This fight ended with a Supreme Court decision upholding the prior appropriation system, protecting senior water right holders and preventing a party such as KVR from circumventing the statutory requirements put in place to protect existing rights.

After the repeated appeals and remands and dragging the parties through multiple contests and court challenges, the Supreme Court offered a reprieve finding “KVR is not entitled to a second bite at the apple after previously failing to present sufficient evidence of mitigation”… and “KVR is not entitled to a do-over after failing to provide substantial mitigation evidence.” State Eng’r v. Eureka Cty., 133 Nev., Adv. Op. 71 (2017). Although it may seem like a small win to the parties to the matter, it is also a great victory in the battle to protect our valuable water resources.

Posted in Case Law, Nevada, Water lawTagged , , ,