Federal appeals court upholds ruling on Truckee water transfers
CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) ” A federal appeals court has upheld most of the state engineer’s rulings in a case involving Truckee River water rights.
The Pyramid Paiute Tribe had appealed a U.S. District Court ruling in the case involving 10 different water rights holders in the Fernley area.
The issue in all 10 cases involved the owners’ rights to transfer their water rights to new owners or new parcels.
The tribe sought to block the transfers, arguing they were forfeited or abandoned for a variety of reasons including that the water involved had not been used on the land it was deeded to, in several of the cases, for more than 30 years. But the Nevada state engineer’s office rejected the tribe’s arguments.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco generally endorsed the engineer’s decision, the Nevada Appeal reported on Tuesday.
Tribal lawyers challenge many transfers within the Newlands Reclamation Project since, if they win, the water stays in the Truckee River and increases the flow, which ultimately reaches Pyramid Lake.
The appellate court panel first spells out that Nevada water rights law “controls both the process and the substance of the issues before us.”
“Simply put, for the most part, the questions now placed before us do not raise any new legal issues,” the opinion states.
But the panel expressed some frustration with the continual litigation over the Truckee River’s water.
“We appreciate that the state engineer and some of the applicants are becoming mighty tired of their trips to and from the federal court system,” Judge Ferdinand Fernandez wrote. “Thus we have tried to sharpen our statement of the rules that must be applied.
“Alas, we cannot bring this process to a close, but must let parts of it continue on their torturous path.”
The opinion affirmed five of the 10 rulings by the state engineer, stating that he followed the law in approving the water rights transfers for those applicants, ruling correctly that they were not abandoned. The opinion also directs the tribe to pay those applicants for the cost of the litigation.
And the court approved most of the engineer’s rulings on the remaining five.
But the opinion reversed the state’s rulings on parts of three applications involving specific parcels of land in the Rambling River Ranches, the Wolf family and the DeBraga family cases.