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|Arizona Supreme Court Interlocutory Appeals|
In re Proposed Gila River Indian Community Water Rights Settlement, Interlocutory Appeals No. WC-07-0001-IR and WC-07-0003-IR (Contested Case No. W1-207), Gila River Adjudication: These appeals involve the petitions for interlocutory review filed by the Apache Tribes (San Carlos Apache Tribe, Yavapai-Apache Nation, and Tonto Apache Tribe), the Lower Gila Water Users, and ASARCO LLC which seek review of the Superior Court's approval of the settlement agreement.
On June 10, 2008, the Court granted the petitions of the Apache Tribes and Lower Gila Water Users concerning their objections to the settlement agreement. The Court also granted ASARCO LLC's petition for interlocutory review.
On August 11, 2008, the Court held a telephonic pre-submittal conference. The Court set deadlines for the Apache Tribes and the Lower Gila Water Users and ASARCO LLC to file briefs, responding briefs, and replies, and set the formats for the designation of record and oral argument. The date and time of oral argument will be announced after the completion of the briefing.
|Joint Hearing on Department Funding, Staffing and Work|
On July 17, 2008, the Court heard from the Arizona Department of Water Resources concerning the Department's funding and staffing for the coming fiscal year as well as its progress with the schedule of assignments. The Department retained its funding for the adjudications work for this fiscal year and currently has 15 adjudications personnel. Following the hearing, the Court provided interested parties an opportunity to submit comments regarding the Department's July 11, 2008, report. The Department was directed to file a memorandum by October 15, 2008, setting forth its views as to the completion of an updated hydrographic survey report for the entire San Pedro River Watershed which would update the 1991 final HSR.
New Court approved mailing lists dated July 25, 2008, were posted. The lists posted online are updated as changes occur. Although the list date remains the same, the posted lists contain all changes. Changes are promptly posted on the Special Master's Web site in the What's New page under Recent Address Changes. The Arizona Department of Water Resources prepares the mailing lists designated Gila River Adjudication, W-1, W-2, W-3, W-4 (Consolidated) and Little Colorado River Adjudication, Civil No. 6417; the Special Master prepares the other lists.
As of June 30, 2008, 80,451 statements of claimant had been filed in the Gila River Adjudication and 14,029 claims in the Little Colorado River Adjudication. It is estimated that there are nearly 26,000 claimants in the Gila River Adjudication and over 4,000 claimants in the Little Colorado River Adjudication.
On August 8, 2008, the City of Flagstaff, Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Salt River Project, and the United States filed motions for summary disposition addressing the issue of whether the United States and the Hopi Tribe "are precluded from claiming a right to water from surface streams that are located within the Little Colorado River Basin, but do not traverse any part of the Hopi Reservation." Arizona Public Service Company and Catalyst Paper (Snowflake) Inc. joined in the Salt River Project's motion for summary judgment. The Court will hear oral argument on October 29, 2008.
The Court referred to the Special Master the issue of the claimed priority of the Hopi Tribe. The Special Master held a telephonic conference on June 2, 2008, after which he allowed claimants until July 7, 2008, to submit comments or specific issues that will assist to resolve the question referred to the Special Master of "whether the claims to water rights asserted by, or on behalf of the Hopi Tribe in this adjudication have a priority of 'time immemorial' or are otherwise senior to the claims of all other claimants." Catalyst Paper, the Hopi Tribe, and the Navajo Nation submitted comments and proposed issues. The Salt River Project joined in Catalyst Paper's comments and proposed issues.
Contested Case No. W1-205: On September 23, 1999, the United States, the Gila River Indian Community, and the Roosevelt Water Conservation District filed an application for an order for special proceedings to approve a settlement involving these claimants. On September 27, 1999, the Court issued a minute order that assigned the application docket number W1-205, but stated that an order for special proceedings would be entered after December 31, 1999. The application pended without further action. On June 16, 2008, the Court dismissed the application pursuant to the unopposed request of the Community and the District.
In re State Trust Lands: The Special Master submitted his report to the Court in which he concluded that reserved water rights do not exist for the State Trust Lands. The time for filing objections and comments has passed. The Court has not set a hearing to consider the report or the objections.
In re San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area: The Special Master denied a request to stay the briefing of the designated issues. ASARCO LLC, Freeport-McMoRan Corporation and Babacomari Ranch Company jointly, Salt River Project, and the United States filed motions for summary judgment. The Bella Vista Water Company, Inc., Pueblo Del Sol Water Company, and the City of Sierra Vista filed a joint statement of position. Oral argument is anticipated to be heard in November 2008.
In re Fort Huachuca: The Special Master declined a suggestion to supplement disclosures concerning the existence or nonexistence, timing, and extent of any official survey of the boundaries of and the lands within Fort Huachuca. After filing his report addressing the issues he had designated for briefing, the Special Master requested comments concerning any matters that could be considered pending the disposition of the report.
The Special Master found that certain areas of the fort, but not others, may hold federal reserved water rights. Any claimant in the Gila River Adjudication may file objections and comments to the report on or before October 1, 2008, with responses due on December 1, 2008.
In re Powers Garden Administrative Site: The Special Master directed the United States to file a report by December 31, 2008, concerning the efforts made by the parties to resolve their objections and the prospects for a complete settlement. The United States has amended its claims. The Special Master commenced this contested case in the San Pedro River Watershed to determine the claimed water rights of the Coronado National Forest to the Powers Garden Administrative Site which is located 20 miles south of Klondyke, Arizona, in the Galiuro Mountains.
In re Applications of Salt River Project for Injunctive Relief Re Respondents NBJ Ranch, L. P., Kovacovich Investment, L. P., and Wiertzema Family Trust: Following a conference held on May 9, 2008, the Court set a schedule leading to an evidentiary hearing on the Salt River Project's applications for injunctive relief. The applications involve claims to surface water rights, including subflow, in the Verde River Watershed. On July 17, 2008, the Court, upon motion made in open court, postponed the evidentiary hearing to February 24, 2009, and granted a request for other extensions. A new schedule will be forthcoming.
Belsher Investments, L. P.'s Application for Injunctive Relief Re Respondent Michael L. Golder: This matter involves claims to surface water rights in the Upper Salt River Watershed. Following an evidentiary hearing, the Court found that Belsher Investments, L. P. satisfied its burden of proof to demonstrate that Mr. Golder lacks a colorable claim to a water right and granted the application for injunctive relief.
Belsher Investments filed proposed findings of fact, conclusions of law, and injunction and requested its attorneys' fees. Mr. Golder filed objections to the proposed injunctive order and a request to dissolve or modify the injunction or in the alternative for security on the injunction. Following a status conference, the Court denied the request for an award of attorneys' fees and costs without prejudice to the request for costs being renewed upon final resolution of this case and directed Belsher Investments to post a $10,000.00 bond.
Joseph E. Clifford, Esq.: On July 10, 2008, Joseph E. Clifford passed away. Joe led the Water Rights Adjudication Team at the Arizona Attorney General's Office. The team represented State agencies in both the Gila River and the Little Colorado River Adjudications. Joe was an important contributor to the master planning of both adjudications and a proficient litigator in the initial interlocutory appeals and in the adjudication of water rights in the Silver Creek Watershed. He held the highest respect of his fellow water attorneys as he was often chosen to present joint views. Joe was an astute scholar of water law, articulate advocate, cautious counsel, and a model of good lawyering.
Public Access to Gila River Adjudication Monthly Dockets: The Clerk of the Maricopa County Superior Court has made available the Gila River Adjudication monthly dockets at more than 40 public access terminals located at four of the Clerk's offices. Customers can access the dockets electronically at 31 public access terminals in the Customer Service Center in downtown Phoenix, six terminals in the Northeast Regional Facility, four terminals in the Southeast Regional Facility, and two terminals in the Northwest Regional Facility. The Clerk's records consist of 439 volumes and 6,733 documents. The Clerk's Office is entrusted with the record keeping for the adjudication and provides document access to litigants and the public.
Link here to the calendar of proceedings on the Special Master's web site.Adobe® Reader®