Water agencies granted early appeal in Agua Caliente Band case

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

The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians in southern California vowed to defend its water rights before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

In March, Judge Jesus Bernal ruled that the tribe's water rights were reserved when its reservation was created by executive order in 1876 and expanded in 1877. The next step in the case would be to quantify those rights.

But the 9th Circuit agreed to hear an early appeal from the Desert Water Agency and the Coachella Valley Water District. The two agencies are hoping to stop the case before it reaches the quantification stage.

"While Agua Caliente is disappointed that the Ninth Circuit decided to hear the appeal at this juncture, it is confident that the court ultimately will affirm the district court's well-reasoned decision," Chairman Jeff Grubbe said in a statement quoted by The Palm Springs Desert Sun.

Bernal's 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:
Water agencies get appeal in groundwater lawsuit (The Palm Springs Desert Sun 6/12)
Appeals court agrees to review tribal water ruling (The Riverside Press-Enterprise 6/12)

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