IN RE: THE GENERAL ADJUDICATION OF ALL RIGHTS TO USE WATER IN THE BIG HORN RIVER SYSTEM AND ALL OTHER SOURCES, STATE OF WYOMING FRANK E. MOHR, Appellant (Objector),
THE STATE OF WYOMING and FARMERS CANAL COMPANY, Appellees (Respondents)
Appeal from the District Court of Washakie County. The Honorable Robert E. Skar, Judge.
Frank E. Mohr, Appellant, Pro se.
Representing Appellee State of Wyoming: Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney General; James Kaste, Deputy Attorney General; Chris Brown, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Abigail C. Boudewyns, Assistant Attorney General.
Representing Appellee Farmers Canal Company: No appearance.
Before BURKE, C.J., and HILL, KITE[*], DAVIS, and FOX, JJ.
[¶1] In the final phase of the general adjudication of water rights in the Big Horn River, the Wyoming Board of Control (the Board) recommended elimination of certain unused and unadjudicated water rights under Farmers Canal Permit 854 (Farmers Canal Permit), including the rights to irrigate Tract 109, now owned by Appellant Frank E. Mohr. Since at least 1922, Tract 109 has been irrigated under Permit 3712E (the Perkins Ditch Enlargement). In conjunction with his application for that permit, Mr. Mohr's predecessor submitted his affidavit acknowledging that water under the Farmers Canal Permit had not been put to beneficial use on Tract 109, and relinquishing his right to water under that permit. The Special Master and the district court found that relinquishment of the Farmers Canal Permit by Mr. Mohr's predecessor was final and not subject to attack by Mr. Mohr. Mr. Mohr argues on appeal that his predecessor's actions did not eliminate the Farmers Canal right, and he asserts a multitude of procedural errors by the district court. We affirm.
[¶2] Although Mr. Mohr asserts numerous issues, we can discern and will address the following:
1. Is Mr. Mohr bound by the acts of his predecessor-in-interest and the previous adjudication of water rights to Tract 109?
2. Did the district court give Mr. Mohr a fair opportunity to present his case in accordance with the Wyoming Rules of Civil Procedure?
[¶3] In 1977, the Wyoming Legislature authorized the general adjudication of " the nature, extent, and relative priority of the water rights of all persons" in the Big Horn River system. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 1-37-106 (LexisNexis 2015). The Big Horn adjudication was divided into three phases:
The focus of the first phase was on the claims of the United States of America and
the Shoshone and Arapaho Tribes regarding reserved water rights on the Wind River Indian Reservation and any other water rights established by federal law. The second phase was to focus upon the consideration of claims asserted by non-Indian successors in interest to lands within the Wind River Indian Reservation that once had been owned by Indian allottees and subsequently conveyed. The third phase was reserved for litigation of all claims founded on state court decrees, state certificates of appropriation, state permits that had not been cancelled, or any additional state claims otherwise represented.
In re General Adjudication of All Right to Use Water in Big Horn River System, 803 P.2d 61, 65 (Wyo. 1990) ( Big Horn II ). Mr. Mohr's appeal comes to us under Phase III, and concerns the elimination of an uncancelled permit.
[¶4] The Farmers Canal Permit was filed on November 21, 1894, by " Richard L. Preator in the name of and for the Farmers Canal Company," for irrigation, mill, and domestic purposes. The permit originally sought water to irrigate 14,353.81 acres from the Greybull River, including 161.73 acres, now known as Tract 109, and currently owned by Mr. Mohr. Over the years, the Board adjudicated 9,214.81 of the acres identified in the Farmers Canal Permit, but no Farmers Canal water was ever adjudicated for Tract 109.
[¶5] In November 1916, Levi Johnson, Mr. Mohr's predecessor-in-interest to Tract 109, signed an application for the Perkins Ditch Enlargement for the purpose of irrigating Tract 109 and for domestic use. In conjunction with his ...