One of the most important ”river law” topics is the application of the Endangered Species Act to water management and use. The ESA is a crucial law for western rivers because it has been far more influential than anything else in making the environment a relevant factor in water management, especially in the operation of federal water projects. And federal river restoration efforts are overwhelmingly driven by ESA considerations.
A Fremont County water district is asserting that its 4,000 users would lose their main source of water if a judge orders a water well, which has discharged pollutants, shut down. The Park Center Water District made that assertion recently in U.S. District Court in response to a lawsuit by four property owners along Fourmile Creek, less than a mile downstream from the well.
The lawsuit was filed March 18 against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management because the well is on BLM land north of Canon City. It supplies most of the district’s water.
A judge last month granted the water district’s request to join BLM as defendants, to defend the district’s interest against the lawsuit.
The property owners are Walter and Katherine Myers, who live along the creek, and their daughter and son-in-law who own nearby land that they use occasionally for recreation and family visits. The Myers contend that they have lost the use of their drinking water well because of discharge of pollutants into the creek, which helps recharge their well.
The water district is asking a judge not to order the well shut down and says it is not currently discharging pollutants. The Myers allege that the well is continuously discharging pollutants, including arsenic and uranium, into the creek, a tributary of the Arkansas River.
The district states that BLM has been in an agreement since March 26 with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to remedy discharges of pollutants from the well. The district and BLM contend that, because of the agreement, there is no need for a judge to order the well shut down.
Any harm the property owners have sustained does not outweigh the harm that water district users would sustain if the judge orders shut down of the well, the district contends.