Water Miners Appeal
The Augustin Plains Ranch LLC (APR) has appealed Judge Reynolds’ decision denying their application to mine water in the Augustin Plains basin. In their Memorandum accompanying their Notice of Appeal, APR states:
“The sole issue on appeal is whether the State Engineer was justified in denying Applicant’s application for an underground water permit, without holding an evidentiary hearing.” (Page 1, Attachment B.)
The Memorandum further states:
“ ‘If the application to beneficial use is made in proper time, it relates back and completes the appropriation as of the time when it was initiated.’ ... Thus, if the application in this case had been approved by the State Engineer, upon the actual appropriation of water to beneficial use, Applicant’s priority date would have been the date of his original application.” (Page 8, Attachment B.)
Keeping this application active, therefore, is an effort to maintain the priority date of October 12, 2007.
In addition to the Appeal filed by the APR, the State Engineer has filed a Motion to Reconsider and as a matter of law, the Court of Appeals must deal with the Motion to Reconsider first, before it considers APR’s appeal.
A further action has occurred: on October 8, 2019, the Environmental Law Center filed “The Community Protestants’ Response in Opposition to the State Engineer’s Motion to Reconsider”. The Catron County Board of County Commissioners filed a similar motion.
Attorneys at the New Mexico Environmental Law Center have explained the legal procedures involved in the Appeal by the Augustin Plains Ranch and the State Engineer:
The Augustin Plains Ranch filed an appeal to the Court of Appeals. The Ranch is seeking to have the Court of Appeals rule that Judge Reynolds made the wrong decision. We do not know the specific grounds that the Ranch will argue, but the gist of the appeal will be that Judge Reynolds made one or more mistakes and the Court of Appeals should reverse his ruling.
The motion filed by the State Engineer is separate from and not related to the appeal filed by the Ranch. The State Engineer is not asking that Judge Reynolds change his decision denying the Ranch's application. Rather, the State Engineer has asked Judge Reynolds to correct three mistakes that he made. The State Engineer has asserted that:
1) Judge Reynolds only had authority to dismiss the Ranch's appeal from the State Engineer ruling, and Judge Reynolds did not have authority to dismiss the Ranch's application;
2) Judge Reynolds did not have authority to dismiss the Ranch's application with prejudice because that means that the Ranch cannot ever file an application to appropriate water again; and
3) Judge Reynolds's order should have specified that it was limited to the application filed by the Ranch in 2014 and amended in 2016.