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Wagoner County Rural Water Dist. No. 2 v. Grand River Dam Auth.

ELR Citation: 39 ELR 20194
Nos. No. 08-5120, (10th Cir., 08/24/2009)

The Tenth Circuit affirmed a lower court decision dismissing water districts' and other entities' claims against an Oklahoma agency and the United States in a dispute over water rights stemming from the Grand River. The plaintiffs sought a declaration regarding their interests in the Grand River water, an injunction prohibiting the agency from charging the plaintiffs for Grand River water, and restitution for all amounts previously paid to the agency for Grand River water. The lower court properly ruled that the state agency is immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment as the plaintiffs failed to prove that the agency waived its immunity. Similarly, claims against the United States were properly dismissed on grounds of sovereign immunity. The plaintiffs argued that U.S. Congress abrogated the United States' sovereign immunity by enacting the McCarran Amendment, which provides that "[c]onsent is given to join the United States as a defendant in any suit . . . for the adjudication of rights to the use of water of a river system or other source . . . ." The McCarran Amendment, however, was intended to avoid piecemeal adjudication of water rights. Because not all potential claimants to the Grand River water have been made parties to this action, the United States has not consented to suit.