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We provide the unconventional thinking necessary to succeed in today's challenging water resources regulatory environment.
Acquiring Water Rights
Acquiring water rights for clients is our main focus. And as our clients expand or change their operations, we help ensure that their water rights continue to meet their needs. Recent experience includes:
- acquiring water rights for a major power plant
- successfully defending a major water right transfer to a regional public water supplier
- representing clients in the Klamath Basin adjudication
- acquiring water rights for new and existing golf courses
- evaluating water rights held by major food processors, municipalities and hydroelectric projects
- acquiring water rights for a new underground mine
- transferring water rights for resort development
- forming water improvement districts
We frequently represent clients before state water resources agencies, state environmental regulators, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other governmental agencies. And we have established a strong reputation with, and gained the respect of, state and federal regulators.
Protecting Water Rights
Although we emphasize communication and negotiation in resolving conflicts, litigation and water rights adjudication are often the only practical means of protecting our clients' interests. The Stoel Rives Water Rights Team has significant water law litigation experience and has tried some noteworthy cases in this arena. We have also participated in recent basin adjudications and have represented many clients in preparing registration statements and water rights claims filings.
Inevitably, conflicts arise between competing water users. We have represented cities, developers, industry and farmers in contested case proceedings before the Oregon Water Resources Department and the Washington Pollution Control Hearings Board. These matters involved conflicts between junior and senior water users, conversion of minimum stream flows to instream water rights, transfers of existing water rights and conflicts between hydroelectric power use and municipal water use.
Representative cases include:
- Tulalip Tribes v. Pollution Control Hearings Board, involving the transfer of a large industrial water right to a consortium of public water suppliers
- Pend Oreille PUD v. Ecology, in which we represented the Washington Public Utility Districts Association as amicus
- R.D. Merrill Co. v. Pollution Control Hearings Board, upholding the transfer of senior domestic and irrigation rights to serve real estate development
- US v. Adair, the federal Indian reserved urban rights case in the Klamath Basin
A steady flow of clean water is essential for many enterprises. We help clients develop long-range management plans to ensure they have the water they need to remain viable—and that they meet their obligations under the Clean Water Act. We are currently working with several municipal water suppliers to develop their long-range water supply plans. We regularly prepare comprehensive water rights status reports to assist clients in their long-term planning, and we advise clients regarding proposed legislative and regulatory amendments affecting the exercise of their water rights.
Other Permitting Issues
Water users face other permitting challenges beyond acquiring and administering water rights. For example, many water users must obtain permits under section 404 of the Clean Water Act and similar state laws to maintain their water diversion facilities. Water users also face wetlands and shoreline permitting issues. Stoel Rives assists water users and landowners in meeting other permitting challenges under state, federal and local statutes.