RICKY C. HOLDEN and KIMBERLY M. HOLDEN, Objectors-Appellants,
JACKIE WEECE and TERESA WEECE, Claimants-Respondents.
Opinion No. 22
from the Snake River Basin Adjudication, State of Idaho. Hon.
Eric J. Wildman, District Judge.
judgment of the district court is affirmed. Attorney fees and
costs on appeal are awarded to respondents.
J. Katsilometes, P.L.L.C., Boise, for Objectors-Appellants.
Thomas J. Katsilometes argued.
Friendly & Ward, Mountain Home, Claimants-Respondents.
Brian B. Peterson argued.
and Kimberly Holden ("the Holdens") appeal from an
order of partial decree granting a water right to their
neighbors Jackie and Teresa Weece ("the Weeces").
The Holdens claim the district court erred in adopting the
findings of fact and conclusions of law contained within a
special master's Report and Recommendation and that the
priority date of the Weeces' water right, recommended by
the special master and adopted by the district court, was
clearly erroneous. We affirm the district court's order.
FACTS AND PROCEDURE
Holdens own residential property in Mountain Home, Idaho. In
1999, the Holdens constructed a well on a portion of their
property (Lot 17) and obtained a licensed water right. In
2000, the Holdens built a residence on another portion of
their property (Lot 16) which included a sewage disposal
system connected to the well. On May 10, 2001 the Holdens
sold Lot 16 to a friend, Loree Saunders
("Saunders"). As an accommodation for the sale, the
Holdens and Saunders entered into a joint well use agreement
allowing Saunders to utilize the well on the Holden's
property. Later, in 2001, Saunders's lender bank
foreclosed Lot 16. The Weeces acquired Lot 16 from the lender
bank on May 20, 2005. The Holdens and the Weeces continued to
follow the joint well use agreement to provide water to Lot
16; however, a dispute arose in 2015 regarding the Weeces use
of such water.
March 12, 2015, the Weeces filed a Motion in the Snake River
Basin Adjudication (SRBA) for Determination of Deferred De
Minimus Domestic or Stock Water Use. The Weeces claimed a
right to use the well on Lot 17 because of a prior physical
diversion of water and its application to domestic beneficial
use with a priority date of February 9, 2000.
8, 2015, the Idaho Department of Water Resources filed its
Director's Report of Deferred De Minimus Domestic and/or
Stock Water Use ("Report") regarding the
Weeces' claim. The Report recommended a priority date of
March 13, 2000. This date was based upon a Central District
Mortgage Report for Sewage and Water Systems which indicated
that the sewage disposal system on Lot 16 was inspected on
March 13, 2000. The Director's Report accepted March 13,
2000 for priority, inferring that water was then available to
the home, since the waste disposal system was inspected and
August 3, 2015, the Holdens filed a Standard Form 1 Objection
to the director's Report, objecting that the water right
"should not exist." The Objection did not include
an objection to the priority date. Trial was then held before
the special master and the Holdens were allowed to amend
their Objection during trial to also object to the
recommended priority date of March 13, 2000. Notwithstanding
their stated objection, the Holdens initially maintained that
the priority date was "unknown." Later during trial
they asserted that the priority date could be no earlier than
when the Weeces acquired Lot 16 on May 20, 2005, even though
Saunders began living in the home in May 2001.
special master then issued a special master's Report and
Recommendation ("Recommendation") on December 16,
2016. The special master found that the Holdens had failed to
rebut the presumption of correctness which was afforded to
the Report. The special master therefore found that the
priority date for the water right claimed by the Weeces was
as set forth in the Report: March 13, 2000.
district court then served a notice on all parties, pursuant
to SRBA Administrative Order 1, Section 13, indicating that
they had until January 28, 2017, to file a Motion to Alter or
Amend the Report. The notice further provided: "Failure
of any party in the adjudication to pursue or participate in
a Motion to Alter or Amend the SPECIAL MASTER'S