Ute Tribe describes the dismissal of water rights claims as a “legal error”
Low water levels can be seen at Starvation Reservoir in Duchesne County on August 9th. The reservoir is located in the general area of the Uintah-Ouray Reservation. The Ute Indian tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reserves filed a lawsuit against the Interior Ministry over water rights in 2018. The lawsuit was extended to Utah companies last year. (Kristin Murphy, Desert News)
FORT DUCHESNE, Uintah County – Leaders of the Ute Indian tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservations announced Wednesday that they intend to initiate another judicial review after a federal judge last week saw most of the lawsuits in their water rights lawsuit against US and Utah government agencies rejected) and called the decision a “miscarriage of justice”.
Washington, DC District Judge Carl J. Nichols dismissed 12 of the 16 claims in federal court on September 15 and transferred the four remaining claims – all four related to Utah’s execution and implementation of the Green River Block Exchange in 2019. to the US District Court in Salt Lake City.
The decision dismissed all trust, contract, jurisdiction, and civil rights violations filed against the federal government in the 2018 lawsuit, as well as many claims against Utah corporations.
Nichols wrote in his 27-page judgment that the statute of limitations has expired in some cases and no “cause of action” has been proven in other claims. Teresa Wilhelmsen, state engineer and director of the Utah Division of Water Rights, said in a statement Tuesday that “the state of Utah has claimed that there has been no discrimination regarding the tribe’s water rights and we are grateful to the judge confirmed this. “
But the leaders of the Ute Indian tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservations, the second largest reservation in the United States, see the verdict differently. In a press release on Wednesday, the Tribal Business Committee, which is the governing council of the tribe, claimed that the decision “is the product of a selective interpretation of the law and a superficial solution to problems” and that the problems are “ongoing” in nature. “
They added that they were “disappointed” that the key issues raised in the lawsuit had been dismissed in what they believed was a hasty decision.
“To date, the tribe has never been compensated for stealing its water,” the leaders of the tribe’s business committee said in a statement. “The tribe has an ownership interest in its reserved water rights in India. However, the federal government’s failure to recognize the tribe’s reserved water rights has resulted in abundant tribal water flowing downstream for lower priority water users to acquire free of charge. This is tribal property rights stolen from among us. “
The leaders said they intend to “continue to vigorously pursue his appeals claims” following the September 15 ruling.
They added that they believe the federal government cannot “simultaneously seek full administrative control over the tribe’s waters while standing before federal courts that the United States has no legally enforceable liability to the tribe in relation to it.” the government of the federal government have “. Managing the waters of the tribe. “
In the meantime, it is still unclear when this case will reopen in Salt Lake City regarding the four non-dropped claims.