Musser v. Higginson

125 Idaho 392, 871 P.2d 809 (1962)

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Musser v. Higginson

Idaho Supreme Court
125 Idaho 392, 871 P.2d 809 (1962)

Facts

Alvin and Tim Musser (plaintiffs) owned property in Idaho with an appurtenant water right in the Martin-Curran Tunnel (the tunnel) dating back to 1892. The tunnel was part of a tributary to the Snake River and had a hydrologic connection to the Snake plain aquifer. In 1993, the tunnel did not provide sufficient water to satisfy the Mussers’ water right, causing them to reduce their crops and leading to a loss of crops that had been planted. The Mussers demanded that the Idaho Department of Water Resources director, R. Keith Higginson (defendant), deliver their full water right. Higginson declined, claiming that he could not require the watermaster to conjunctively administer ground and surface water in the local water district. The Mussers sought a writ of mandate from the Idaho district court to compel Higginson to deliver the water according to their priority water right. Higginson filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that he was developing conjunctive management rules for the aquifer and the Snake River. The district court, noting that Idaho followed the prior-appropriation doctrine—first-in-time is first-in-right—denied the motion to dismiss and granted the Mussers’ request for an order compelling Higginson to deliver the water. Higginson appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Johnson, J.)

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