Rangen, Inc v. North Snake Ground Water Dist.Annotate this Case
This case arose out of a permit application to obtain a water right filed by the respondents, North Snake Ground Water District, Magic Valley Ground Water District and Southwest Irrigation District (“the Districts”), to appropriate water from Billingsley Creek on real property owned by appellant Rangen, Inc. After the Director of the Idaho Department of Water Resources denied the application in a final order, the Districts petitioned for judicial review. The district court set aside the Director’s final order. Rangen appealed. Rangen historically diverted water from Billingsley Creek. Before the Department ruled on the Districts’ April 2013 application, Rangen filed a competing application on February 3, 2014. Rangen’s application sought to divert 59 cfs from Billingsley Creek for fish propagation, with the same source and point of diversion elements as the Districts had requested. On January 2, 2015, Rangen’s application was approved for 28.1 cfs for fish propagation with a priority date of February 3, 2014. This permit had apparently not been challenged. Department employee James Cefalo presided over a hearing on the Districts’ application and subsequently issued a Preliminary Order Issuing Permit in which he found that the application was made in good faith, did not conflict with the local public interest, and otherwise satisfied the necessary requirements. Therefore, he approved a conditional permit authorizing the Districts to appropriate 12 cfs from Billingsley Creek for mitigation purposes with a priority date of April 3, 2013. Rangen filed a protest of the hearing officer’s preliminary order with the Director. After the parties briefed the issues, the Director subsequently issued a final order overturning the hearing officer’s decision and denying the application. The Director concluded that the Districts’ application was made in bad faith and that the application was not in the local public interest. The Districts petitioned for judicial review, asserting that the Director abused his discretion and exceeded his authority in denying their application. On judicial review, the district court set aside the Director’s final order, concluding that the application was neither made in bad faith nor counter to the local public interest. The district court also rejected Rangen’s arguments that the Districts’ application was incomplete or speculative and that mitigation is not a recognized beneficial use of water under Idaho law. Rangen appealed again. After review of the district court record, the Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err in its judgment and affirmed.