Weminuche Wilderness: Federal judge denies dam project at Emerald Lake

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

In a Sept. 18 ruling, U.S. District Court Judge John L. Kane dismissed a claim by the irrigation district that in 1940 it acquired the right build a dam at Emerald Lake. Kane also upheld the federal government’s position that heirs of the man who built a dam there about 1895 have no claim, either. The legal battle started about 2004 when Pine River Irrigation District, which provides Vallecito Reservoir water for irrigators in southeast La Plata County, attempted to resurrect what it alleged was the right to build a water-storage facility at Emerald Lake. The lake and nearby Little Emerald Lake, a total surface of 300 acres, sit at about 10,000 feet elevation in Hinsdale County.

Daniel Israel, a Denver attorney who represents the irrigation district, said Friday that an appeal is possible. “There’s a long history here,” Israel said. “We relied on a federal court decision eight or nine years ago, but Judge Kane rejected the court’s analysis. We don’t agree with his reading.” Israel said the 1891 law on which the early dam builder acted never has been analyzed by a federal court of appeals.

More San Juan Basin coverage here and here.

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