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National Parks Conservation Ass'n v. Salazar

ELR Citation: 39 ELR 20174
Nos. No. 09-00115, (D.D.C., 08/12/2009)

The Tenth Circuit affirmed a lower court decision declining a water user association's request for a declaration that it has well-defined rights to develop power in the Diamond Fork System of the Central Utah Project and instead declaring that the association, the United States, and the local water district must negotiate in good faith pursuant to a 1991 contract entered between the parties. The association argued that it owns a power privilege in the Diamond Fork System merely by virtue of its water ownership. But the association's right to profit from power development does not derive from the mere fact that its water passes through the power system. Rather, it acquires such rights through federal government contracts. Further, the 1991 contract provides that the allocation of power rights on Diamond Fork would be addressed through negotiation and a future contract. Because the association must enter a lease of power privilege to profit from power development in Diamond Fork, the court did not abuse its discretion by declining to intervene in hypothetical future negotiations. In addition, the lower court properly confined its holding to the federal questions raised by the United States' counterclaim in which it sought a declaration that federal law and the relevant contracts between the parties reserved to the United States the authority to change the use of reclamation project water or points of diversion.