Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Just in time for today's (my one and only) class dealing with water law . . . the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments yesterday about the concept of "beneficial use" in the Western states' prior appropriation approach ("first come, first served" per Chief Justice Roberts) to water law. The case seems to hinge on whether or not Wyoming is in violation of a compact signed by Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota if less water is being returned now to the Yellowstone River basin by Wyoming irrigation systems than was being returned in 1950, the date for the "beneficial use" benchmark. In 2008, the Court appointed Buzz Thompson (Stanford) as special master for the matter. Today's NY Times article suggests that the Court, which has original and exclusive jurisdiction over the matter, is skeptical of Montana's complaint.