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Minatare may file suit over water
January 22, 2015 Jerry Purvis   

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After years of working with the state and federal government on its water mitigation project, the City of Minatare is facing a deadline to either have all the necessary documents in place or risk having its water shut off.

Scottsbluff informed Minatare that without agreement from all parties, they would have to discontinue supplying water after early February.

Water mitigation regulations under the state Natural Resources Districts require municipalities to replace any groundwater they take out. That could be done by purchasing land and decommissioning any water rights.

Scottsbluff has been supplying Minatare with its water supply, but negotiations are bogged down at the federal level. The U.S. Department of Agriculture keeps asking for documentation that had been provided previously. It has also asked for expensive testing the city cannot afford.

City Attorney Audrey Elliott told council members she wrote a letter to the USDA stating they were frustrated with the hoops they must jump through when no one has met with city officials to resolve any questions. Minatare spends money to go through the hoops only to be met with more hoops she said.

Elliott asked the USDA to contact the city by Jan. 27 so they would have to sign all the necessary agreements to decommission the water rights on the property and pay the owner for the land. She also asked for the needed grant money to be released so the city could proceed.

“The city will pursue legal remedies to protect its rights for citizens using the municipal water supply,” she told council members. “They haven’t held up their end of the contract.”

As of the Jan. 20 council meeting, Minatare still hadn’t heard anything from USDA. Elliott suggested the council consider filing a suit in federal court, calling for an injunction to keep their water supply from being turned off.

Council members voted unanimously for the city attorney to pursue whatever measures are necessary to resolve the problem.
In other action, Ward II council member Jerry Harms received unanimous support to become the new mayor. Harms will serve until 2016, completing the term of recalled mayor Alfred Pieper.

The council also declared a vacancy in Ward II and asked for interested persons in that ward to contact the city if they are interested in serving.
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