The United States Supreme Court denied Michael Abatti et al. petition for writs of certiorari Monday, June 28. His appeal to the highest court in the land officially ends the lawsuit he filed against the Imperial Irrigation District.
Abatti wanted the court to vacate the judgement of the Fourth Appellate Court which ruled mostly in favor of IID, determining the water did not belong to the landowners, only the right of water service.
Abatti began the suit in 2013 after the IID instituted its Equitable Distribution Plan (EDP). In light of the continuing drought in the Western states, the IID needed a tool to ration Colorado water if needed. Abatti believed the IID had overstepped its jurisdiction and took the District to the Superior Court where Judge Brooks Anderholt ruled in favor of Abatti.
The IID appealed, and the Fourth Appellate Court’s three-paneled judges reversed Anderholt’s decision.
Abatti argued in his brief to the Supreme Court that landowners have actual water rights per the 1902 Federal Reclamation Act, not just the right to water service. The Abatti brief said his claim is not a new one but has long been protected under federal law.
He also argued that the Imperial Valley farmers and landowners have witnessed a loss of property value since the Fourth Appellate Court’s decision. According to the brief, farmers can’t make produce or field crop contracts, which are worth billions, because they cannot guarantee water delivery. The ruling, according to the brief, has reduced production and investment back into the land, a detriment, Abatti said, to the Nation.
The US Supreme Court did not validate Abatti’s claim by letting the lower court’s verdict stand.
The IID recognized in the brief it filed in response to Abatti’s appeal that the landowners have a legally enforceable right appurtenant to their land to continue service by the District under State law, but it said no individual farm in the district had a permanent right to any specific proportion of the water held in trust by the District.