65°F
weather icon Overcast

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
Local Salvation Army hit by thieves

As Pahrump’s Salvation Army prepares to serve families in need during the holiday season, approximately $500 worth of new toys set aside for its annual Angel Tree program were recently stolen, along with Christmas decorations and items being stored for the Kiwanis Club and Pahrump’s Sleep In Heavenly Peace organization.

Pahrump community comes together for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time for appreciation and for hundreds of Pahrump area residents and visitors, there was plenty to be grateful for this year at the Pahrump Holiday Task Force’s annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner.

Pahrump Valley Academy virtual town hall set for Saturday

Throughout much of 2019 and into 2020, a group of local residents hoping to add a new educational option to the valley worked diligently toward establishing Pahrump Valley Academy, which would have been the valley’s very first public charter school, only to have the proposal nixed in early 2020.

Rotary Club encouraging students to read

The Pahrump Rotary Club has performed countless community service projects since its inception in 1987.

Bowling for Our Wounded Warriors – Fundraiser set for Dec. 5

Donning a U.S. armed forces uniform is something that comes with great risk and the men and women who step up to take on the challenge of protecting America through military service often come home with injuries, both the visible and the invisible kind.

Man calls 911 while speaking to deputies, report says

Nye County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested a man who allegedly called 911 for a complaint about loud music at a residence along South Chippewa Street last week but ended up getting arrested himself.

Development of Pahrump’s Kellogg Park tracking right along

Development of Pahrump’s newest park, Kellogg Park on the southern end of the valley, continues to move along steadily, with a variety of milestones reached in recent months and officials with the town of Pahrump and Nye County now setting their sights on the next steps of the development process.

PLAC to decide on Rough Hat recommendations; meeting Nov. 30 in Pahrump

Throughout its many years, the Pahrump Public Lands Advisory Committee hasn’t seen a whole lot of community involvement, with the group historically hosting its monthly meetings amid almost empty audiences.

Together With Veterans hosting SWOT assessment meeting in Pahrump

The men and women who have served in the United States military have given of themselves, made sacrifices on a daily basis and put the safety of others before themselves in order to protect America but when service comes to an end and they return to civilian life, the transition can be jarring.

Beatty Advisory Board deals with trails, racing, blue light

There will be no informal election to choose appointees to the Beatty Town Advisory Board. Randy Reed and Erika Gerling, whose terms expire at the end of the year, were the only people to submit letters of interest, so the Board voted, at their Nov. 22 meeting, to forward their names to the Board of County Commissioners for reappointment.