Skelton Ranch, Inc. v. Pondera County Canal & Reservoir Co.Annotate this Case
This matter comprised two joined cases, both involving claims to water diverted from the South Fork of Dupuyer Creek in Two Medicine River Basin, into Gansman Coulee, for irrigation in the Teton River Basin. Two sets of claimants (“Duncan” and “Skelton”) filed statements of claim for existing rights. A canal and reservoir company (“Pondera”) appeared in the adjudication of Duncan’s and Skelton’s claims. The Montana Water Court amended the Water Master’s Report and adopted it as amended. Duncan and Skelton appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Chief Water Judge properly admitted historical documents prepared by Pondera in anticipation of litigation under the ancient document exception to the hearsay rule; (2) the Chief Water Judge correctly rejected the Master’s findings regarding certain variables used to determine the historical capacity of a flume on the Thomas ditch; (3) the Chief Water Judge correctly determined that portions of the claimants’ water rights had been abandoned or never perfected; and (4) the Chief Water Judge correctly adopted the Master’s conclusion that the claimants did not acquire any water rights by adverse possession.