Desert Water Agency v. Department of the Interior, No. 14-55461 (9th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
DWA, a political subdivision of the State of California, charges businesses and residences in Riverside County a variety of fees and taxes in order to recoup its costs and expenses. Parties subject to DWA's charges include non-Indians who lease lands from the Tribe within the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation. DWA filed suit against the Department, challenging Interior's promulgation of 25 C.F.R. 162.017. Section 162.017 addresses the taxes applied to approved leases on Indian land to third parties. The court agreed with Interior and concluded that the regulation does not purport to change existing law, and therefore it does not operate to preempt DWA's charges. Consequently, DWA lacks standing to challenge the regulation. Finally, the court lacked jurisdiction to issue a declaratory judgment that DWA's charges would survive a preemption challenge under White Mountain Apache Tribe v. Bracker where the dispute between DWA and Interior was over. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment.