Eminent domain law, water law and water rights in Colorado are the primary emphases of our law firm.
Eminent domain involves the acquisition of private property by public entities for public projects or by private parties for private use under specific circumstances. Our firm represents clients both acquiring the property and whose property is being acquired.
When private property is taken by eminent domain, the owner is entitled to just compensation. Just compensation in Colorado includes payment to the owner for the reasonable market value of the property acquired as well as for damages to the remainder; and sometimes special benefits to the owner’s property can offset damages and a portion of the compensation for the property acquired.
Members of this firm are engaged in all aspects of counseling and representing condemning authorites and landowners in various stages of the eminent domain process including: pre-condemnation counseling, required negotiations including Notices of Intent and Final Offers, eminent domain appraisal consultation, appropriate expert witness consultation, Petitions in Condemnation, immediate possession proceedings, settlement negotiations, litigation, proposed legislation and collateral issues such as utility impacts, easements and tenant issues.
The firm’s eminent domain practice has included representation of numerous condemning authorities, landowners and developers. We have appeared before many courts in eminent domain proceedings including Colorado District Courts in Denver, Arapahoe, Adams, Jefferson, Douglas, San Miguel, Boulder, Montezuma, Summit, Broomfield and Gunnison counties, as well as the Colorado Court of Appeals and Supreme Court.
Water rights are a separate and distinct form of property right in Colorado. Rights to use the water that flows within and is connected to the surface streams of Colorado are obtained by adjudication of a water right before one of the Water Courts in the State.
After a water right has been adjudicated it is a vested property right that may be sold or otherwise alienated like any other real property. If the owner of a water right wishes to make a new or different use of the water right from that originally decreed, any such changes of the water right must be approved by the Water Court. Water Court approval is also required for the manipulation of water rights, i.e. the right to exchange water (i.e. move it upstream), or to provide for a plan for augmentation (withdrawing water at one particular time and location upon the duty to replace it at another time and location).
Colorado also recognizes a form of water referred to as nontributary groundwater, typically found in deep, bedrock aquifers. The Water Court also has jurisdiction over this type of water. Also, on the eastern plains of Colorado are several areasknown as Designated Basins. Water rights in these areas are not handled by the Water Court but are instead controlled by a Groundwater Management District.
Members of this firm are engaged in all areas of water rights practice ranging from assisting with the investigation and purchase of water rights, with or without the land on which the water historically was used, to changes of water rights and adjudication of new water rights, to protection of water rights by participating in the water court applications of others, to appeals of such matters. This includes cases involving nontributary water rights as well as cases before the Groundwater Management Districts. Our Practice also includes administrative matters before the office of the State Engineer who is the administrator of water in Colorado.
Apart from the adjudication, purchase and sale of water rights, our firm has represented numerous governmental entities in the negotiation of Intergovernmental Agreements (IGAs) pertaining to the joint use and operation of water rights, as well as agreements for the acquisition, joint use or operation of storage and conveyance facilities. Moreover, our firm assists with review and analysis of proposed legislation, the handling of various property rights such as easements, rights of way, covenants, etc. that have a collateral relationship to water rights, and administrative and permitting work before state and federal agencies.