In Re: SRBA CASE NO. 39576 SUBASE NO. 37-00864
STATE OF IDAHO, Defendant-Respondent. GARY AND GLENNA EDEN, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
Opinion No. 17
from the Snake River Basin Adjudication, State of Idaho. Hon.
Eric J. Wildman, District Judge.
judgment of the district court is affirmed. Costs on
appeal are awarded to Respondent.
Hawley, Troxell, Ennis & Hawley, LLP, attorneys for
Appellant. Merlyn W. Clark argued.
Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General, Boise, attorney for
Respondent. Shantel Chapple Knowlton argued.
an appeal from the Snake River Basin Adjudication
("SRBA"). Gary and Glenna Eden (the
"Edens") sought to file a late notice of claim for
their Water Right No. 37-864 which was not claimed during the
pendency of the SRBA and therefore was decreed disallowed. In
the SRBA, the Edens alleged that the SRBA's Final
Unified Decree and the Closure Order should be
set aside as void because they did not receive sufficient
notice of the SRBA proceedings to satisfy due process.
Further, the Edens argued they were not personally served
with the required notice of default pursuant to Idaho Rule of
Civil Procedure 55(b)(2). Finally, the Edens claimed that
unique and compelling circumstances justify relief from the
final judgment under Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(6).
The SRBA court disagreed and denied the Edens' relief on
any of these grounds. The court entered judgment reflecting
its conclusions. Edens timely appealed and we affirm the
district court for the reasons below.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
SRBA Case History and Procedures.
17, 1987, pursuant to authority from Idaho's legislature
in 1985 and 1986, the Director of the Idaho Department of
Water Resources ("IDWR") filed a petition in the
name of the State to begin the SRBA, and on November 19,
1987, the adjudication was commenced. Its purpose was to
ultimately fashion a unified decree determining all water
rights from the Snake River Basin water system. The decree
would allow for the creation of an accurate schedule of water
rights to assure the proper delivery of water in times of
commencement, the SRBA maintained "no reasonable method
of initiating the proceeding; . . . notice to potential
claimants . . . was provided by the existing Rules of Civil
Procedure." In re SRBA Case No. 39576, 128
Idaho 246, 251, 912 P.2d 614, 619 (1995) (hereinafter
Basin-Wide Issue 3). One of the primary difficulties
in a general stream adjudication like the SRBA, where
thousands of claims and potential parties are involved, is
that "a requirement of personal service would be too
onerous, impractical and confusing in its employment,
defeating any purpose for meaningful notice." Lu
Ranching Co. v. United States, 138 Idaho 606, 610, 67
P.3d 85, 89 (2003) (citing In re Rights to the Use of
Gila River, 171 Ariz. 230, 241, 830 P.2d 442, 453
light of these realities, "it was necessary for the
Legislature to provide special procedural rules for the
initiation of the SRBA." Basin-Wide Issue 3,
128 Idaho at 251, 912 P.2d at 619. These rules are generally
set forth in chapter 14, Title 42, Idaho Code, and include
what are known as "first and second round" service
procedures codified in Idaho Code section 42-1408.
Additionally, this Court granted expanded powers to the
district judge managing the SRBA:
[This Court] issued a Supplemental Order Granting Additional
Powers to the District Judge. In that order, this Court
granted the district court "the authority and power to
modify the procedure for making service of pleadings,
motions, notices of hearing and other documents and the
procedure of giving notice of hearings and trials before the
court or any masters appointed by the court." In
response to this order, the district court issued SRBA
Administrative Order 1, [A.O.1], supplementing the applicable
Rules of Civil Procedure with specialized procedures "to
the extent necessary to allow for the fair and expeditious
resolution of all claims or issues in the SRBA."
to the authority granted in A.O.1 the district court adopted
a procedure to provide notice which it called the Docket
Sheet procedure. A.O.1 ¶ 6. The SRBA utilized this
procedure by issuing monthly Docket Sheets which included a
list of all orders, pleadings (except responses, pleadings or
orders filed in subcases), and other documents filed with or
issued by the SRBA court since the last Docket Sheet. The
Docket Sheet is posted in the District Court of each county
within the SRBA boundaries and made available at IDWR's
central and regional offices. The Docket Sheet is also posted
on the SRBA website. Interested persons also have the option
of paying a nominal fee to subscribe to the Docket Sheet.
Id. § 6(c) "Compliance with the Docket
Sheet Procedure constitutes notice to all parties to an
adjudication." Id. § 6(f)(3)(b).
SRBA began working toward a final, unified decree, the
district court determined that it was appropriate to begin
the basin closure process. Accordingly, it began informing
water users that it would start closing claims in specific
water basins. The court issued an Order which it called
Order Establishing Deadline For Late Claim Filings in
Basins 01 . . . 37 . . . ("Deadline Order") to
inform individuals of the process. The Deadline Order was not
mandated by chapter 14, Title 42, Idaho Code, but it was
provided as an additional courtesy to water users.
Deadline Order was issued in October 2012 and provided that
the last date to file a Motion to File Late Claim was January
31, 2013. Pursuant to the Order, "[n]o late claims would
be accepted for filing." The Deadline Order admonished
potential claimants to "examine Exhibit 1 [a list of
non-de minimis water rights from IDWR's water
rights database, which included Water Right No. 37-864] to
determine whether the listed water right numbers [were]
active water rights." Id.
August 26, 2014 the SRBA court culminated its 27-year effort
and issued the Final Unified Decree for the SRBA.
The Final Unified Decree decreed more than 158, 600
water rights. Ann Y. Vonde et al., Understanding
the Snake River Basin Adjudication, 52 Idaho L. Rev. 53,
56 (2016). With very limited exceptions, this decree is
"conclusive as to the nature and extent of all water
rights within the Snake River Basin within the State of Idaho
with a priority date prior to November 19, 1987" and is
"binding against all persons." Final Unified
Decree (August 26, 2014); Idaho Code § 42-1420(1).
The Final Unified Decree incorporated Attachment 6
which sets forth "water rights of record with the Idaho
Department of Water Resources that were required to be
claimed but were not claimed in this proceeding and therefore
were decreed disallowed." The Edens' Water Right No.
37-864 is included in Attachment 6 as an unclaimed water
right which was expressly disallowed.
Statement of Facts
SRBA court found that the Edens were mailed first round
service notice on September 19, 1988 regarding a water right
that is not at issue in this case. That notice included the
following warning in all capital letters: "PLEASE
REMEMBER!!! FAILURE TO FILE A REQUIRED NOTICE OF CLAIM WILL
RESULT IN A DETERMINATION BY THE COURT THAT THE WATER RIGHT
NO LONGER EXISTS." In addition to this notice being
mailed to the Edens, it was circulated throughout the Snake
River Basin, including in Lincoln County by being published
in a newspaper of general circulation (The Lincoln County
1992, the Edens purchased 40 acres of real property and its
appurtenant water rights from Richard and Carolyn Bateman,
which included two water rights. First, Water Right No.
37-864 decreed in 1918 with a priority date of 1896. Water
Right No. 37-864 allows diversion of 1.00 cfs from the Big
Wood River for the irrigation of the 40 acres in Lincoln
County, Idaho. Second, a supplemental storage right from
American Falls Reservoir District No. 2. Typically, Water
Right No. 37-864 is delivered during the first part of the
irrigation season through July, at which time the
supplemental storage water is delivered from American Falls
Reservoir District No. 2.
about April 28, 2005, IDWR sent the Edens a letter requesting
they verify that their address had changed. The letter made
reference to "SRBA Notices of Claim to a Water Right
#37-365, 37-366 and 37-367B and Decrees #37-10322 and
37-10953." The letter requested that the Edens verify
that their address had changed. Glenna Eden signed the letter
and returned it in May 2005, identifying the Edens'
undisputed that IDWR did not receive a claim on Water Right
No. 37-864 after the first notice. IDWR therefore conducted
second round service notice in conformity with Idaho Code
section 42-1408(4) as to Water Right No. 37-864. This notice
was sent to the Edens on or about May 5, 2005. Glenna Eden
signed a certified mail receipt for the second round notice
on May 6, 2005. It was further undisputed during the SRBA
court hearing that the Edens received the second round
IMPORTANT LEGAL NOTICE . . . . Records of
the Idaho Department of Water Resources (IDWR) indicate that
you may own or have an interest in a water
right in the Snake River Basin, but have NOT
filed a Notice of Claim with IDWR for this water right. This
notice serves as your second and FINAL
notice of your responsibility to file a notice of claim.
FAILURE TO FILE A REQUIRED NOTICE OF CLAIM WILL
RESULT IN A DETERMINATION BY THE COURT THAT THE WATER RIGHT
NO LONGER EXISTS.
FILING DEADLINE IS AUGUST 5, 2005
required by Idaho Code section 42-1408(4), the second round
service notice also provided the Edens with instructions for
filing a notice of claim in the SRBA, including that
"Notices of Claims must be filed on forms prepared by
IDWR or a reasonable facsimile" and that failure to
include the required filing fee would "result in a
rejection of the Notice of Claim." These requirements
are also specified in chapter 14, Title 42, Idaho Code.
See I.C. §§ 42-1409, 42-1414.
Edens claim that they responded to this notice by including
certain unknown and unnamed documents in the letter they
returned to IDWR with their confirmation of change of
address. IDWR did receive some documents from the Edens,
because on May 19, 2005, IDWR staff drafted a response letter
to the Edens confirming receipt of some enclosures related to
Water Right No. 37-864. IDWR's letter is unsigned; the
documents the Edens enclosed are not named; and there is no
evidence that the letter was ever delivered to the Edens'
Shoshone address. When the Edens did not receive a reply from
IDWR confirming their address change, they assumed IDWR had
accepted their submission and a claim for Water Right No.
37-864 had been filed, even though no claim was made on an
IDWR form, or a reasonable facsimile, nor was any filing fee
ten years later, on March 20, 2015, the Edens received a
letter from the Treasurer/Secretary for Water District 37
indicating that Water Right No. 37-864 would no longer be
delivered because it was disallowed in the State's
adjudication process on February 2, 2013. The letter also
indicated that as of that date IDWR records "show the
water right in the name of Anthony M. Gomez [sic]. Water
Right 37-864 had not been transferred to [Edens']
ownership." In 2016, during a Board of Directors meeting
of the Big Wood Canal Company, the Edens' storage water
in American Falls Reservoir District No. 2, supplemental to
Water Right No. 37-864, was also deemed undeliverable because
it was no longer valid.
September 30, 2016, over two years after the entry of the
Final Unified Decree, the Edens filed a Motion to
File a Late Claim and a Motion to Set Aside the Final
Unified Decree and Closure Order. In their
Memorandum in Support of the Motion to Set Aside, the Edens
claimed that the Final Unified Decree and Closure Order was
void with regard to its effect on Water Right No. 37-864
under Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(4) because they did
not receive sufficient notice and an opportunity to be heard.
Additionally, the Edens argued unique and compelling
circumstances existed to justify relief under Idaho Rule of
Civil Procedure 60(b)(6). Namely, the Edens maintained that
despite confirming their current mailing address with IDWR
they were never informed that Water Right No. 37-864 remained
unclaimed. Therefore, the Edens asserted that they should be
allowed to file a late claim for Water Right No. 37-864