Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Different Kind of Battle


The story of the West is a story of water and water rights. It's the gold that fuels development, think the movie China Town or Marc Reisner's book, Cadillac Desert. We live in Red Rock Valley, which is one valley west of Long Valley, a basin that receives Sierra runoff and its snow melt. It means we have a good aquifer in addition to occasional small springs.

We drew the attention of developers who quietly bought the water rights for a alfalfa ranch in lower Red Rock Valley. They petitioned to have an easement so they could subdivide and build houses and get out of the hay business. They received the easement, and then the horns came out. Actually, they said - we're going to build a pipeline with that easement and export your water. Their pipeline would place pumping stations right next to existing houses.

The water rights to that parcel were granted before Dickenson Ranch was subdivided into 400 parcels, which are now all small homesteads with individual wells. Nevada has a law that personal wells have a priority, but the developers have deep pockets. We raised money like crazy and hired an attorney to represent our cause. Our attorney emailed us yesterday with the following:

"Just received notification that Judge Adams ruled in our favor this morning and denied Red Rock LLC's petition to throw out the county commissioner's ruling. Spread the good news that we won! I will forward the decision as soon as I receive the order. "

It's a relief. We've won for now because they ran out of money. The concern is that they will be back, which means they'd have to take it to the Supreme Court, but for now, we've won!!

15 comments:

LA said...

I lived in New Mexico for three years, which was quite a cultural shock for this E. TN gal! The first thing I learned was that the laws for water rights were written in the 1600's, and were part of a Treaty that is still up held today. You won this battle...I'm hoping you win that war.

beadlizard said...

I have the 1898 rights for my creek in Montana. This is a reminder to check in with the water board and make sure everything's going smoothly up there. SO GLAD you won! Whew.

Theresa said...

This is just a an opening salvo for the decades to come about water rights in the west and other places.
If you think things are getting ugly over oil, just wait.
Good for you guys. Let's hope it holds for a good long time again!

bspinner said...

I agree with Theresa I think the rights to clean water will be a much bigger deal then oil in the future.

Congratulations!!! We don't know how lucky we are to have clean water and have it at the flip of a tap.

Leigh said...

Sharon I was worried sick when I first started to read this post. What a relief in the end. It seems that there is no end to what the "big guys" will do to undermine the rest of us for their own gain. Seems our government ought to be protecting citizens from this sort of stuff rather than allowing corporations to get away with it.

Michelle said...

"the horns came out." Apt description!

~~Sittin.n.Spinnin said...

YAY! Congrats to all of you!

Benita said...

Congratulations!!!! It is so good to win against selfish people and companies.

Tina T-P said...

So glad your efforts were successful. Yes, water rights are becoming more and more important all over the world! T.

Laura said...

Yay!! (for now). I would think that Nature Conservancy, or someone could get them shut down because of the marsh - Sandhill cranes aren't all that numerous, and to have a breeding pair there year after year must count for something! Also, the Yellowheaded Blackbird Rookery is pretty valuable.

I know that if they are able to prevail in the future, things will be way, way different in those two valleys.

marion said...

Gratulations, although it all sounds stange to me.(I live in The Netherlands where 'water' is organised differently) But I am glad you won.

marion said...

I just wondered, what would have happened if you lost?

vlb5757 said...

Good for all of you guys. Big corporations always thing they will out gun the "common" man. They don't know who they are tangling with!

Life Looms Large said...

Phew! Glad that your wells are safe now and hopefully for a long time to come. I always wonder when I visit the west how people get water because it looks so dry. Private wells....just like we have here.

Sue

Kim said...

So glad to hear you have won. I am not a fan of either lawyers or developers. They seem to be related.