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Mohave Valley Irrigation & Drainage District v. Norton

ELR Citation: 31 ELR 20578
Nos. 99-16927, 244 F.3d 1164/(9th Cir., 04/11/2001)

The court upholds a district court decision granting summary judgment in favor of the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) in a dispute in which an irrigation and drainage district alleged that DOI breached a 1968 contract entitling the district to 41,000 acre-feet of water annually from the Colorado River system. The district claimed that DOI breached the contract when it subtracted water provided to holders of present perfected rights located within the district from the amount fixed by the contract. The district court held that the allotment of water in the contract encompasses all the water delivered to the district, even if some of that water goes to landowners who hold present perfected rights. The district appealed, claiming that the contract is ambiguous and, thus, the issue should go to trial. The court first holds, however, that the contract is not ambiguous. If the parties intended to exclude water received by present perfected rights holders, the contract would not have defined the waters included in the allocation so expansively. Further, extrinsic evidence does not render the contract ambiguous.

The full text of this decision is available from ELR (5 pp., ELR Order No. L-358).

Counsel for Plaintiff
Terrence S. Leek
Law Offices of Terrence S. Leek
126 N. Marina St., Prescott AZ 86301
(928) 778-7700

Counsel for Defendant
Jeffrey C. Dobbins
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000