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Great Basin Water Network v. Taylor

Citation: 40 ELR 20031
No. No. 08-1498, (W.D. Pa., 01/29/2010)

The Nevada Supreme Court reversed and remanded a lower court decision that held that the Nevada State Engineer did not violate his statutory duty by failing to rule on the water appropriation applications of a regional water authority within one year of the protest period closing. At the time the applications were filed, Nev. Rev. Stat. §533.370(2) required the State Engineer to approve or reject water appropriation applications within one year of the final protest date, except where written authorization from the applicant and protestants was obtained or where an ongoing water supply study or court action necessitated postponement. The State Engineer failed to show that either of these exceptions applied. The State Engineer nonetheless argued that, pursuant to amendments made to §533.370 thirteen years after the applications were filed, he was allowed to postpone a ruling on “pending” applications made for municipal purposes. The court disagreed, finding that “pending” applications are those that were filed within one year prior to the amendment being enacted (i.e. those in which the one-year period under §533.370 had not yet passed). And, in the absence of statutory language and legislative history demonstrating an intent that the amendment apply retroactively to the regional water authority’s application, the State Engineer could not take action on them pursuant to the amendment. The State Engineer therefore violated his statutory duty. The court reversed and remanded for the lower court to determine whether the regional water authority must file new water appropriation applications or whether the State Engineer must re-notice the original applications and reopen the period in which protests may be filed.