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United States v. Orr Water Ditch Co.

ELR Citation: 34 ELR 20155
Nos. Nos. 03-16654, -16941, (9th Cir., 12/14/2004)

The Ninth Circuit upheld a district court decision staying a Nevada State Engineer's ruling granting the U.S. and the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe of Indians' applications to make temporary changes to two water rights set forth in the Orr Ditch Decree, a 1944 federal court decree quieting title to certain water rights in the Truckee River. The changes would allow water formerly used for irrigation of Indian lands to flow into Pyramid Lake where it would help preserve the tribe's fishery. A city and a local irrigation district appealed the State Engineer's decision and sought to stay the ruling pursuant to Nev. Rev. Stat. §533.450, which provides for an automatic stay of the State Engineer's decisions. The United States and the tribe argued that the stay was a procedural matter that should be decided according to Fed. R. Civ. P. 65, which governs the availability of injunctions. The statute, however, is an integral part of Nevada water law rather than a generally applicable rule of civil procedure. The state statute, therefore, applies to federal proceedings under the decree.