The Mineral County Board of County Commissioners received a legal update on the progress of the Walker Lake litigation at their Sept. 5 meeting.
Simeon Herskovits, who represents Mineral County on the Walker Lake litigation, was in attendance to explain that the most dramatic development in the Walker Lake case deals with the litigation fund.
He explained that there were appeals from the federal decree court which administers the Walker River decree and basically controls all the water within the Walker River Basin.
Giving a history of the court case, Herskovits explained that Judge Robert Jones gave some “bad judgments” from his level as a judge within the district court jurisdiction regarding the Walker River water.
The judgments set forth by Jones were taken to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Mineral County was able to brief the court of appeals and they gave their ruling this summer. Herskovits explained that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Judge Jones on all his counts, removed him from the case and the case has been assigned to a new judge.
Herskovits stated that Mineral County values the work as set forth by National Fish and Wildlife Foundation on their quest to support restoration of Walker Lake and restoring the Walker River basin’s healthy water flow and ecosystem.
One of the key issues overturned by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals was that Walker Lake “must be accepted as part of the basin and an appropriate destination of water within the Walker River Basin.”
The question regarding public trust doctrine came out of the Walker Lake litigation and has been brought in front of the Nevada Supreme Court.
Herskovits believes that the briefing regarding this case should be completed around the first of 2019. The Nevada Supreme Court will hold a public hearing once the briefings are complete and should be scheduled mid-2019. A ruling “should” follow quickly afterwards.
“We think that eventually some kind of compromise or agreement among the appealing interests of the basin is going to be required or even if there is some sort of court victory on one side or the other because the problems in the basin have been serious issues for many decades and are not going away. The basin is not going to fix itself, the upstream communities or interest groups are not going to abandon all of their property or rights,” Herskovits told those in attendance.
Herskovits said that the parties will all need to work together for the benefit of the Walker River Basin. “I feel that it is a very promising time right now,” he concluded.
District Attorney Sean Rowe explained that Mineral County was last in front of the Nevada Supreme Court in the early 1990’s “in the battle to save Walker Lake.”
Herskovits said that battles such as the one with Walker River Basin and Walker Lake are not uncommon to drag out for centuries due to the need for water in the West.