The Nevada State Engineer’s office on January 24 released a schedule and plan of development in reaching a decision on the hotly-contested water right applications by the Southern Nevada Water Authority in the Spring, Cave, Dry Lake, and Delamar Valleys.
In a descriptive statement from October, the office noted that “Please note that the above-referenced 1989 SNWA applications filed in Spring, Cave, Dry Lake and Delamar Valleys are the only 1989 SNWA applications that are being addressed at this time. Issues as to other applications in other basins can be raised at the time those applications are considered. It is not known when the applications in other basins will be re-noticed, but their consideration will be staggered over a number of years. As you may know, by letter dated August 26, 2010, the State Engineer indicated that the Snake Valley hearing has been postponed indefinitely.”
It also said that
it is the State Engineer’s position that the 1989 applications in Coyote Spring Valley, which are part of an ongoing study, and those in Garnet Valley, Hidden, Three Lakes, Tikapoo Valleys and California Wash, which have already been permitted and for which there were no appeals, are final decisions and are not subject to the Supreme Court’s decision. However, Applications 53947, 53949 (Tikapoo North), 53952 (Tikapoo South), 54061 (Three Lakes North), 54063, 54065, 54106 (Three Lakes South), which were not previously acted on, are protested and are still before the State Engineer for action, will be re-published and the protest period re-opened at some future date, as well as other 1989 SNWA applications that have not been acted on to date such as those in Snake Valley, Railroad Valley and Virgin River Valley. There are no 1989 SNWA applications in Indian Springs Valley.
1989 and 2010 Protests. An issue for which much criticism is being levied is that of the transfer of the 2010 protests to the 1989 applications once the 1989 applications are re-noticed. The criticism suggests that the State Engineer has the authority or discretion to accomplish this transfer. This office recognizes the duplication required in filing protests for the re-noticed applications when similar protests have recently been filed on the new applications; however, there is no statutory authority that allows a protest from one application to be applied to another application nor do the rules pertaining to the practice and procedure in hearings on protested applications grant the State Engineer that authority. Those rules are procedural, not substantive and the State Engineer’s authority is statutory not equitable. This interpretation has been confirmed by legal counsel. In light of the legal issues surrounding these applications, it is our goal that they not be remanded again over a decision that is not founded in any statute or regulation. Therefore, protests are required for both the 1989 and 2010 applications. However, if a person has already filed a protest to a 1989 application, they may file an amended protest during the new protest period without having to pay an additional protest fee. It has been noticed that many of the protests that were filed to the 2010 applications all assert the same protest grounds. Nothing prevents these Protestants from joining together to file one protest to the re-noticing of the 1989 filings; however, let it be clear that they will only be permitted to present one single case by a single representative of the group.
The protests to the 2010 applications are not invalid. They are valid as to the specific application against which they were filed, the 2010 applications, but they are not applicable to the 1989 applications. The 2010 applications remain on file as applications with priority dates junior to the 1989 applications and the protests to those applications remain on file. The 2010 applications are not as asserted merely duplicative; they are distinctively different with priorities junior in priority to other pending applications not held by the SNWA.
The schedule as released by the state engineer’s office:
February 2011 – Republication of applications anticipated during February 2011.
Late March 2011 – Protest period closing anticipated for late March 2011.
Late April 2011 – Final date for suggestions for holding hearing in orderly and expeditious manner and parties to provide information regarding number of witnesses they anticipate and an estimate of the time needed to put on their case by April 29, 2011. Possible pre-hearing conference around this same date.
July 1, 2011 – First evidentiary exchange is anticipated to be July 1, 2011.
August 26, 2011 – Second evidentiary exchange is anticipated to be August 26, 2011.
September, October and November 2011 – Administrative hearing to be held Monday through Friday, September 26-30, October 3-7, October 10-14, recess through October 28, and reconvene for hearing October 31 – November 4, Monday through Thursday November 7 through 10, and November 14-18, 2011.
Late January 2012 – Proposed draft rulings due to State Engineer.
March 2012 – State Engineer’s ruling.