Nevada Supreme Court issues opinion

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Great Basin Water Network v. State Eng'r: "In this appeal, we must determine a narrow, yet fundamental question: whether the State Engineer violated his statutory duty under NRS 533.370(2) by failing to rule on Southern Nevada Water Authority's (SNWA) 1989 water appropriation applications within one year.  NRS 533.370(2), as it existed in 1989, required the State Engineer to approve or reject each water appropriation application within one year after the final protest date.  The State Engineer, however, could postpone taking action beyond one year if he obtained written authorization from the applicant and protestants or if there was an ongoing water supply study or court action.  None of those conditions occurred by the end of 1991.  However, in 2003, the Legislature amended NRS 533.370 to permit the State Engineer to postpone action on pending applications made for a municipal use.  The district court summarily determined, among other issues, that the amendment applied to SNWA's 1989 applications, thus enabling the State Engineer to take action on applications filed 14 years earlier.

            The parties to this appeal dispute whether SNWA's 1989 applications were "pending" in 2003 under the legislative amendment and, therefore, whether the amendment applied retroactively to those applications.  We conclude that "pending" applications are those that were filed within one year prior to the enactment of the 2003 amendment.  And, in the absence of statutory language and legislative history demonstrating an intent that the amendment apply retroactively to SNWA's 1989 applications, we determine that the State Engineer could not take action on them under the 2003 amendment to NRS 533.370.

            Because we determine that the 1989 water appropriation applications were not pending in 2003, we conclude that the State Engineer violated his statutory duty by failing to take action within one year after the final protest date.  Thus, we reverse the order of the district court and remand for a determination of whether SNWA must file new groundwater appropriation applications or whether the State Engineer must re-notice SNWA's 1989 applications and reopen the period during which appellants may file protests."

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This page contains a single entry by JoNell published on January 28, 2010 9:19 AM.

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