(CN) – The Nevada Supreme Court tossed the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s claim to tens of thousands of acres of feet of water in rural upstate Nevada on a technicality: the state’s water engineer’s office took too long on the application when it was first filed in 1989.
The water authority wanted to siphon water from the Virgin and Muddy rivers to feed parched southern Nevada and its booming growth in the ’90s long before the economic downtown.
In 1989, the state engineer was required to approve or reject a water appropriation application within one year of its filing. The state legislature then amended the law in 2003 to allow the engineer to delay action, giving the engineer time to act on 14-year-old applications and to “grandfather” in any pending water rights issues.
The state engineer, then Hugh Ricci, “violated his statutory duty by failing to take action within one year after the final protest date,” the court ruled in reversing the order from the district court.
The water authority and engineer contended that the application was pending when the law was passed, but the district court in 2007 sided with current engineer Tracy Taylor, saying the 2003 law allowed applications to be extended.
The supreme court reversed and ordered the water authority to submit new groundwater applications. The agency has already done so, according to published reports.