Water agencies seek early appeal for Agua Caliente Band case


A view of the Agua Caliente Reservation in southern California. Photo from Facebook

Two non-Indian agencies are asking permission to file an early appeal in the water rights case of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians in southern California.

On March 20, Judge Jesus Bernal ruled that the tribe's water rights were reserved when President Rutherford B. Hayes set aside the reservation by executive order in 1877. The next step in the case would be a quantification of those rights.

The
Desert Water Agency and the Coachella Valley Water District, however, want to take the decision to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals before it even reaches that stage. A notice was filed on Monday.

"The water agencies didn't respect the tribe's claims to water rights at all," Chairman Jeff L. Grubbe told The Los Angeles Times of the reason the lawsuit was filed two years ago. "We wanted to have a voice."

The ruling was based on the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Winters v. US. The 1908 case held that the creation of a reservation automatically implies the right to use water for agricultural, domestic and other purposes.

"The federal government intended to reserve water for the tribe’s use on its reservation," Bernal wrote in the 14-page decision. "Rights to the groundwater underlying the reservation are appurtenant to the reservation itself."

Turtle Talk has posted documents from the case, Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians v. Coachella Valley Water District.

Get the Story:
Tribe fights Coachella Valley water agencies for aquifer rights (The Los Angeles Times 3/31)
Desert Water Agency files appeal in groundwater court battle with local tribe (KESQ 3/31)

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