Irrigation, Water, and Navigation

SHRA has conducted historical research for many water users across the West. Since the mid-1990s, we have written histories and conducted research on multiple watersheds and irrigation projects. We have expertise in the history of U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Projects as well as Carey Act and private irrigation projects.

We have also examined the historic character of water courses, using written documents as well as photographic evidence in order to determine historic stream flow, navigability, presence of certain landmarks or users, fish populations, etc. Our reports have been used in litigation to demonstrate the original intent of various irrigation facilities, historic crops and water demand, and impacts of ground water pumping on surface water users. Specific watersheds and projects include rivers in California, New Mexico, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Nebraska, Arizona, Missouri, and Kansas.

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Select Past Projects

State of New Mexico, Texas v. New Mexico, No. 141 Original (New Mexico, 2015-2022)

New Mexico retained SHRA’s Jennifer Stevens to provide historical research and expert services related to the history of water development and interstate use of and cooperation on the Rio Grande. Dr. Stevens provided extensive research, an expert report, a rebuttal report, deposition testimony, and trial testimony in front of the Supreme Court’s Special Master in the case. This trial is still ongoing and is expected to conclude in 2022.

State of New Mexico, New Mexico Attorney General, State of New Mexico v. Intrepid LLC (New Mexico, 2019-2021)

The New Mexico Attorney General retained SHRA to research and provide an expert report on the history of potash refinery water use on the Pecos River in New Mexico. The project required conducting research into the history of the corporation as well as the potash industry as a whole. This particular company underwent many ownership and structural changes, in addition to the operation’s technological changes over time which affected water use on the site. Dr. Stevens provided an expert report as well as trial testimony, helping the State of New Mexico secure a favorable ruling from Judge Weschler in New Mexico State Court in 2021.

Surface Water Coalition 2005 Delivery Call (2005-2006)

SHRA provided historical research and an expert report to be used in a dispute between surface and ground water users in south central Idaho characterized as “epic” by water lawyer Jeff Fereday of Givens Pursley, LLC in Boise, Idaho. The report focused on the history of multiple irrigation districts in the area, historical use of their respective water rights, and the history of ground water vis-a-vis the surface water users.

Pioneer Irrigation District v. City of Caldwell (2006-present)

Pioneer Irrigation District waters thousands of acres of the Boise River Valley south of the Boise River, and has been in existence for more than 100 years. SHRA was hired by the District to research and write the history of the district’s facilities, and provide an expert analysis of the purpose for which the canals and dams were built. Dr. Stevens provided deposition testimony in 2008, and the attorney we worked for wrote about the case here.   Additional information on the case can be seen in this media coverage (Idaho Press Tribune Article).

Payette River Navigability (2015-2016)

In 2015-2016, the Idaho Department of Lands hired SHRA to explore the historic navigability of the Payette River in Idaho. Our researchers examined the history of log drives, boating, and other uses of the river dating to the 19th century. Our report included historic photographs, tables, and maps of the river prior to its present engineered status. SHRA has also conducted research on river navigability in Arizona and California.