Court upholds Petroleum County water right dating to 1882
Thursday, May 16, 2019
Posted by: Joe Menden
The Montana Supreme Court has upheld the oldest water right on Flatwillow Creek, dating back to 1882.
Wilks Ranch Montana Ltd and Daniel Iverson had claimed in 2012 that Gene Klamert had not used his water allotment for irrigation on his Petroleum County ranch for 17 years, and therefore the right should be considered abandoned.
The Billings Gazette reports that Justice Mike McGrath wrote the majority opinion upholding two previous Water Court decisions in the case.
Michelle Bryan, a law professor at the University of Montana specializing in natural resources and environmental issues, told the Gazette that the critical burden is on the party claiming abandonment, making such an argument tricky to win.
"Once you've won in front of the Water Court it's really hard to overturn on appeal," she added. "You have to show there was clear error made."