U.S. Water News Online
RIVERTON, Wyo. -- A court showdown between non-Indian irrigators and the Wind River tribe in Wyoming has been scheduled to begin within months. The first of some 250 claims for rights to water from the Big Horn River and its tributaries will be heard in state district court at Worland, Wyo., on May 15.
Settlement of the ongoing dispute over tribal water rights is expected to set a precedent for similar litigation throughout the West. Special masters William Schwartz and Ramsey Kropf have asked attorneys to try to agree on up to eight issues in an effort to expedite the hearings.
Some irrigators within the Bighorn River Basin have claimed senior, or "Walton" rights to water from the river. The irrigators have argued that they are entitled to water rights of seniority equal to the rights awarded the tribes in an 1868 treaty and reaffirmed in later court decisions. The tribes, on the other hand, contend that irrigators cannot enjoy the Walton rights because those rights were reserved for tribal members. But the irrigators claim their seniority rights must be honored because they were acquired directly from tribal members.
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