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Board of County Commissioners v. Park County Sportsmen’s Ranch, LLP

Supreme Court of Colorado
45 P.3d 693 (2002)


Facts

James Gardner and Amanda Woodbury (Landowners) (plaintiffs) owned property in South Park, Colorado. Park County Sportsmen’s Ranch, LLP (PCSR) also owned land in South Park. PCSR had an extensive plan for water use and management for its more than 2,000 acres of property. PCSR applied to the Water Court for a water-rights decree to implement this plan. As part of its application, PCSR claimed the right to use aquifers under the Landowners’ property as water-storage reservoirs. Aquifers are porous underground rock areas than can hold water. The Park County Board of County Commissioners (plaintiff) and the Landowners sued, claiming that PCSR had no right to use the space beneath the Landowners’ property for water storage. The Landowners claimed that, unless PCSR got the Landowners’ consent and paid for the use, storing PCSR’s water under the Landowners’ property was trespassing. The Landowners argued that they were entitled to the water and aquifers under their property, the same as they would be entitled to minerals under their property. The Water Court ruled that: (1) storing water under the Landowners’ property would not be a trespass and (2) because PCSR was not building anything on the Landowners’ property, PCSR’s proposal to store water under the Landowners’ property did not require either the Landowners’ consent or payment of just compensation to the Landowners. The Landowners appealed.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Hobbs, J.)

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Concurrence/Dissent (Kourlis, J.)

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