San Miguel River: Montrose County water rights filing denied as speculative

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From the Telluride Watch (Peter Shelton):

District Court Judge J. Steven Patrick issued a summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs/opposers Sheep Mountain Alliance in a case involving water rights on the Johnson Ditch. The county applied for the rights in 2010, it stated, to support industrial and residential growth anticipated to accompany the proposed Piñon Ridge uranium mill. Sheep Mountain’s attorney’s argued that Montrose County’s uses for the water were speculative, and the judge agreed…

In the just-dismissed case, the county had filed on water belonging to the Uravan Water Trust, rights that were held as part of the “decommissioning of milling activities at the [defunct] Uravan mill.” According to court documents, “Upon termination of the Trust, the water rights will be conveyed to the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB).” Montrose County’s filings on the San Miguel River were made, in part, to beat an instream water rights filing by the CWCB to protect habitat and recreational uses on the Lower San Miguel.

Opposers to the Johnson Ditch filing claimed the “applicant must demonstrate . . . that its intent to appropriate is not based upon speculative sale or transfer . . .” And Judge Patrick concluded Monday that Montrose County failed to establish standing to seek the water right and that “the Applicants’ intent in the Johnson Ditch water rights is too speculative as a matter of law to satisfy the ‘can and will’ test.”

From the Montrose Daily Press (Katharhynn Heidelberg):

Montrose County did not establish the standing necessary to secure water rights on the Johnson Ditch, a judge ruled Tuesday, dismissing its 2010 application for those rights…“I think it’s great news,” SMA attorney Jenny Russell said. “I think it supports our claim that Montrose County’s applications are speculative.”

More San Miguel watershed coverage here and here.

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