In January 2021 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Walker Lake Working Group (WLWG) and Mineral County, Nevada could pursue remedies for restoration of declining Walker Lake, so long as this did not involve reallocation of prior water rights.
The Ninth Circuit then sent the case back down to the U.S. District Court – District of Nevada, in Reno, where Walker Lake proponents found an earlier order from a departed Judge still awaiting them. This order required them to hand serve written notices of their Public Trust Claim in the Walker Lake litigation on all riparian landowners in the California portion of the Walker River Basin and to serve all subsequent filings by mail on all Walker Basin water rights holders, living throughout the country, as far away as Hawaii. While the WLWG and Mineral County are making good progress on serving the California riparian owners, that process and the continued burden of having to serve paper copies of every filing on the large total number of water rights holders in the basin is very costly for the Walker Lake proponents.
However, the judiciary, and perhaps even judicial philosophy have changed in Reno. Chief Judge Miranda M. Du, a graduate of the UC Berkeley School of Law, relieved the Walker Lake proponents of the requirement to continue service of paper copies by mail in the future.
Unfortunately, the advent and resurgence of Covid-19 has drastically slowed this legal process just when it is most needed to begin the practical application of the Public Trust Doctrine to the preservation of the Walker Basin and set a pathbreaking precedent of wildland protection throughout the state of Nevada.
Funding for legal efforts, facilitated by then US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in 1994, allowed the WLWG to partner with Mineral County in the hiring of renowned environmental attorney Simeon Herskovits to join them in their public trust case. As lead attorney for the Great Basin Water Network, Mr. Herskovits won seven court victories in successfully blocking an attempt by Las Vegas to pump groundwater from rural northeast Nevada southward through a 250 mile pipeline. Previously, he worked with diverse coalitions to defeat a series of dangerous attempted water grabs in northern and southern California, including the original Cadiz Water Project.
The WLWG has currently exhausted their financial resources and now find themselves unable to fund future legal efforts, just as the legal tides are turning in their direction. I would ask the friends of Mono Lake to send their love, and contributions to our sister terminus lake.
Walker Lake Working Group
PO Box 867Hawthorne, NV 89415
To donate online – www.walkerlake.org