Arizona General Stream Adjudication Bulletin
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In re SPRNCA: The Court denied motions in limine filed to preclude new expert work prepared by the United States in support of its claim, reasoning that the Congressional decision to reserve SPRNCA for future generations provides a compelling reason to resolve the issues on the merits rather than limiting evidence due to disclosure issues. The trial has been rescheduled to begin April 10, 2018. The Court subsequently held a status conference regarding the parties’ progress and to adjust the trial schedule. A status conference will be held on February 8, 2018.
Claims for Water Rights for Irrigation Use
In its Hydrographic Survey Report for the San Pedro River Watershed (San Pedro HSR), the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR), as part of its Major Users Report, discussed four irrigation water users: Aravaipa Creek Water Users, Pomerene Water Users Association, Bayless & Berkalew Company, and St. David Irrigation District.
The Aravaipa Creek Water Users is a general label applied to a group of individuals and entities diverting water to irrigate individual plots within the Aravaipa subwatershed. As of the end of 2017, contested cases have been initiated for almost all of the irrigators identified and status conferences held to address the need to file additional information, such as amended claims and assignments. In one of the cases, ADWR has met with the current landowners and submitted new and amended reports identifying water rights. In three of the cases, objectors have explored settlement discussions and filed brief reports.
The contested case, In re Pomerene Water User Association, will adjudicate the rights to water distributed from the Pomerene Water Users Association canal for irrigation purposes. Landowners identified by ADWR as users of the irrigation water and their successors in interest identified through the county records were given until October 9, 2017, to file new or amended statements of claimant. At the October 18, 2017, status conference, counsel for the Pomerene Water Users Association reported the election of a new board of the Pomerene Water Users Association and outlined the work needed to be undertaken to submit supplemental information regarding claims on behalf of its members. The case, as currently configured, will adjudicate water rights identified in a number of watershed file reports and approximately 100 landowners. On December 21, 2017, the Pomerene Water Users Association provided a list of property owners whose claims would be represented by counsel for the Association.
Active contested cases now exist for the two remaining major users of irrigation named by ADWR in the San Pedro HSR. On October 11, 2017, contested case In re Bayless & Berkalew was initiated to determine the water rights of Bayless and Berkalew Company. A status conference was conducted on November 21, 2017. Proposed abstracts for 53 de minimis uses by Bayless & Berkalew Company were issued on December 19, 2017, for the purpose of allowing the parties to suggest corrections. On December 22, 2017, based on county assessor information compiled by ADWR, an order was issued in In re St. David Irrigation District to the numerous landowners who may have claims to water rights based on diversions from the St. David Irrigation District Ditch. A status conference to begin the process is set for February 15, 2017.
The year ended and 2018 began with the initiation of two contested cases, In re Pima County Flood District and In re Pima County Irrigation, to adjudicate their claims for water rights which include irrigation uses. Status conferences are set for January 25, 2018. It is anticipated that additional cases will be initiated in the coming months to adjudicate the objections filed to claims made by entities for water for irrigation uses identified in the San Pedro HSR.
Subflow in the Gila River Watershed:
In the San Pedro watershed, proceedings continue to identify wells that may be pumping subflow. This process is currently divided into three stages. The first stage concerned the identification of the boundaries of the subflow zones within the San Pedro River watershed. The Court has approved the revised Subflow Zone Delineation Maps prepared by ADWR that identify those subflow boundaries. The second stage will determine the appropriate test to identify the wells outside the lateral limits of the subflow zone that are subject to this adjudication due to their cones of depression. A Cone of Depression Test Methodology has been prepared by ADWR. Objections have been filed to the proposed test and a trial is set to consider those objections beginning on March 5, 2018. A pretrial conference was held on October 11, 2017, and on December 12, 2017, an order was issued that precludes the consideration of transitory modeling in the Cone of Depression test, consistent with a 2005 order issued on this subject. The third stage of this process will be the development of a subflow depletion test that was the subject of a status conference on September 13, 2017. An initial report concerning a proposed test will be proposed by ADWR by November 16, 2018, after which the parties will have an opportunity to study the report and file objections.
By order dated November 27, 2017, ADWR has been directed to develop a subflow technical report for the Verde River Watershed.
In re Hopi Priority: The Hopi Tribe filed an amended statement of claimant for its water claims for lands located outside of the reservation. During the past four months, court proceedings have concerned the claims that the Hopi Tribe will make for water rights for stockponds and stock watering. The Hopi Tribe moved for the adoption of summary adjudication procedures for its de minimis water uses. The Salt River Project responded with a motion to invoke a process that would determine de minimis uses and appropriate summary procedures for the Little Colorado watershed. All parties agreed that additional information about the collection and analysis of data by ADWR must be obtained before a decision can be made. On December 22, 2017, ADWR filed its report and recommendations regarding the timing and scope of a technical report on de minimis uses. A court date to further consider the matter is set for January 18, 2018.
In re Hopi Reservation HSR: The parties worked on providing and disclosing expert reports and scheduling depositions during the past four months. In addition, the parties filed objections and responses to the Special Master’s Report recommending dismissal of the Hopi Tribe’s claims to off-reservation water sources to be used to provide water to the Hopi Reservation. The matter will be argued before the Court on January 18, 2018. The remaining court proceedings focused on establishing procedures and deposition guidelines and granting a short extension of the discovery deadline. A pretrial conference has been set for March 29, 2018.
Link here to the calendar of proceedings.
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