68°F
weather icon Clear

Federal court rejects attempt to dismiss church’s takings claim in Amargosa Valley

The U.S. Court of Federal Claims rejected the federal government’s attempt to dismiss a takings claim lawsuit for diverting water from Ministerio Roca Solida, a small church in Amargosa Valley.

A ruling from America’s trial court for “takings” issues under the Fifth Amendment of the Bill of Rights has rejected arguments central to the federal government’s case.

In an opinion and order filed Tuesday, Nov. 29, U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Elaine D. Kaplan denied a government motion to dismiss the church’s takings claim, stating that the government’s arguments for dismissal “lack merit.”

Joseph Becker of Nevada Policy Research Institute’s Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation, who represents the church, called the motion “the church’s major victory over the federal government.”

“Judge Kaplan’s decision is a very large step forward for the Patch of Heaven church camp in what has now become a five-year-plus court battle between the church and and the federal government,” Becker said.

In 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service diverted the creek away from the Ministerio Roca Solida where Victor and Annette Fuentes, the leaders of the ministry, had founded the Patch of Heaven church camp. The agency cited the need to preserve endangered species, including the Ash Meadows speckled dace that inhabit the refuge.

The diversion also resulted in repeated flooding of the church’s property.

The federal government had argued that it bears no liability for the flooding and that the church had no rights to the water that had previously traversed its property.

Becker argued in the documents that the federal government violated multiple constitutional rights in one fell swoop in August 2010.

The Ministerio Roca Solida has since filed a complaint for the tort and due process and free-exercise claims in the U.S. District Court for Nevada. In 2012, the church also filed a takings claim in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, along with a motion to stay proceedings in that court pending the outcome of the injunctive relief sought in the U.S. District Court.

The federal government argued before the Court of Federal Claims that the plaintiff could not pursue all its claims. The Court of Federal Claims held that the church could not bring a takings claim in the Federal Court of Claims while seeking relief for other government transgressions in the U.S. District Court.

“Because of the federal agency’s dangerously negligent construction of the diversion channel, never competently engineered to accommodate rain or runoff waters, a mini-grand canyon now cuts through what were once lush wetlands,” Becker said.

The Nevada Division of Water Resources recently said that Roca Solida Ministry had vested rights to the water.

On Nov. 4, the state of Nevada ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to return the water to its “historic path” within 90 days. The agency could face administrative fines of up to $10,000 per day until corrective action is taken.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
Expert coming to Pahrump, set to talk about feral cats

Dr. Kate Hurley plans talk about the best tactics for addressing outdoor cats from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15 at the Nye County Commissioners’ chambers, 2100 E. Walt Williams Drive in Pahrump, organizers announced.

NHP: Separate crashes kill 2 in rural Nye County

The Nevada Highway Patrol is investigating separate fatal wrecks that occurred within a half-hour of one another in rural Nye County earlier this week, shutting down travel for hours in both regions.

Two-vehicle collision in Pahrump

Though the parking lot of Walmart is not known for serious vehicle collisions, that is exactly what occurred on Tuesday morning, Nov. 5, as Pahrump Valley Fire and Rescue Services crews transported one person to Desert View Hospital following a two-vehicle crash.

Giving back to those who served: Pahrump home to Veterans Stand Down

Pahrump is well known as a town that supports and honors its veterans and for many of the organizations and businesses that serve the community, giving back to those who have served in the U.S. armed forces is a central goal.

Nye County included in BLM to hold oil and gas lease sale

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is holding a multi-day competitive oil and gas lease sale beginning on Dec. 17 as part of an event that includes Nye County, the agency announced.

California Lottery

No one matched all five numbers and the mega number in the Wednesday, Nov. 6 drawing of the California Super Lotto. The next jackpot will be at least $9 million.

Possible gun ban in Pahrump library’s story room

The subject of Second Amendment rights is one that nearly always generates a big reaction from the predominantly Republican communities of Nye County and a recent proposal to possibly ban guns in the story room at the Pahrump Community Library has area conservatives up in arms to protest the idea.

Pahrump area veterans wrapped in love

America is known throughout the world as the bastion of freedom and liberty, a land where the citizens’ rights are guaranteed, protected and fiercely defended.

Effort looks at summer recreational opportunities

The Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest released the Lee Canyon master development plan draft record of decision and final environmental impact statement for a 45-day formal objection period.