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United Plainsmen Ass'n v. North Dakota State Water Conservation Comm'n

Citation: 7 ELR 20117
No. No. 9234, 247 N.W.2d 457/(N.D., 11/19/1976)

Holding that the public trust doctrine limits state allocation of water resources, the North Dakota Supreme Court reverses the trial court and orders it to hear a suit alleging that state water officials must devise water conservation plans relating to energy production facilities. After holding that the trial court's memorandum dismissal is appealable within the relevant statute, the court notes that N.D. Cent. Code § 61-01-26 merely declares legislative policy regarding water resources and does not impose mandatory responsibilities on the state engineer for water planning prior to issuing water permits. State officials' discretionary authority in water planning is, however, circumscribed by the public trust doctrine, which requires, at a minimum, that the officials determine the potential effects of water allocations on present and future water needs of the state. The complaint states a cause of action upon which relief may be granted. Nevertheless, considering the small number of water permits relating to energy conversion industrial facilities, the court does not grant plaintiffs' request for a temporary restraining order pending trial on the merits.

Counsel for Plaintiffs-Appellants
Joseph A. Vogel, Jr.
Box 309
Mandan ND 58554
(701) 663-7577

Counsel for Defendants-Appellees
Murray G. Sagsveen, Special Asst. Attorney General
State Capitol
Bismarck ND 58505
(701) 224-2210