STATE ENGINEER, ALBUQUERQUE, AND GALLUP CHALLENGE COURT OF APPEALS DECISION, ALONG WITH THE SAN JUAN ACEQUIAS

This is a litigation update on the Navajo water claims.

In April 2018 the New Mexico Court of Appeals affirmed the Navajo water settlement. Then many parties objected to the Court of Appeals decision, so the New Mexico Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

In late 2018 several parties filed briefs in the Supreme Court challenging the Court of Appeals opinion. Those filing briefs, in addition to the San Juan water users, are: the State Engineer, the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority and the City of Gallup. These government agencies are now raising many of the same objections as the San Juan community ditches.

This is a major boost for San Juan water users, because the state and local agencies are now allied with the San Juan water users on some key issues. They all agree that the lower court ruling is wrong, because it gives control of the San Juan River to the United States and the Navajo Nation.

Right now, the Navajo Nation and the United States are the only ones defending the lower court ruling. They are scheduled to file briefs in late January, but they will probably be delayed by the partial federal shutdown.

All the other parties are aligned on the other side of the appeal: the San Juan water users, the B square ranch (Tommy Bolack), McCarty Trust, Gary Horner, the New Mexico State Engineer, the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Authority, the City of Gallup, 10 state legislators (including Senator Steve Neville and Representative Paul Bandy), and the New Mexico Acequia Association, Inc. (filed by David Benavides of New Mexico Legal Aid, Inc.). All of these parties are saying that the Court of Appeals decision is wrong.

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