State of New Mexico ex rel. State Engineer v. Commissioner of Public Lands

200 P.3d 86 (2008)

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State of New Mexico ex rel. State Engineer v. Commissioner of Public Lands

New Mexico Court of Appeals
200 P.3d 86 (2008)

  • Written by Rose VanHofwegen, JD

Facts

Three congressional acts granted school trust land to New Mexico. The Organic Act of 1850 promised specific land, but the federal government used or reserved some of it for other purposes. The 1898 Ferguson Act promised substitute land as well as land for reservoirs for irrigation without referencing the school trust lands as needing irrigation. The Enabling Act of 1910, which made New Mexico a state, granted different school trust land. Because the land had little value due to its aridity, Congress granted extra acreage to compensate. In 1975, the New Mexico state engineer (plaintiff) began adjudicating water rights in an area with nearly 300,000 acres of school trust land. Decades later, in 2004, the state commissioner of public lands (defendant) filed a declaration in the adjudication claiming the state was entitled to claim federal reserved water rights in the school trust land. The district court granted summary judgment for the state engineer, finding no federal reserved water rights in the school trust land. The commissioner appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Wechsler, J.)

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