Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt is a leading Northwest law firm in the practice of water law. We provide assistance to a wide range of water users, from individual landowners to municipalities, on all types of water rights and water use issues. We focus on obtaining, protecting and marketing of water rights, as well as the interrelationship between water law and other regulatory requirements, such as the Endangered Species Act (fish issues), the Clean Water Act (federal water quality requirements), and removal-fill authorizations. Our water law team has extensive experience in successfully representing clients before the Oregon Water Resources Department, the Oregon Department of State Lands, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other government agencies.
Our water law team, led by Martha Pagel, is dedicated to finding innovative solutions to water supply needs. Ms. Pagel is the former director of the Oregon Water Resources Department and the Department of State Lands. She also has extensive personal contacts in the governor's office and other state agencies.
Water Use Authorizations: Most new water uses in Oregon require a permit from the Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD). Our attorneys are experts in navigating OWRD's application processes and regularly represent clients in obtaining permits and temporary authorizations to use both surface water and groundwater throughout the state. We also offer advice and assistance on permit extensions, permit amendments and issues related to permit compliance and perfection. Recently we have helped our clients secure approval of groundwater permits for various uses, including irrigation, industrial, municipal, quasi-municipal and domestic uses; surface water permits to store water in reservoirs and to apply stored water to secondary uses such as irrigation; limited licenses for projects that require immediate, temporary authorization; and permit extensions and amendments for all types of water rights.
Our water team also assists water users in obtaining required authorizations from the Oregon Department of State Lands and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before undertaking projects that involve earth-moving activities within waterways and wetlands. We can also help water users determine whether a project may qualify for an exemption from such requirements.
Water Right Transfers: Oregon law allows water users to "transfer" (i.e. change) their water rights under certain circumstances by filing an application with the Oregon Water Resources Department. A water right has key attributes that can be changed through the transfer process, including the authorized place of use, type of use and point of diversion or well location. In some cases – particularly in the Deschutes Basin - surface water rights may be transferred to instream use to mitigate the impacts of new groundwater development. We routinely assist our clients with these and other types of transfers.
Water Right Transactions: Our water team assists clients with water-related transactions, including water rights purchase and sale agreements, shared water system agreements (for wells, reservoirs and distribution systems), water use easements, and stored water contracts with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. We have significant experience in developing water rights mitigation plans, assisting buyers and sellers of water rights for mitigation purposes, and in converting water rights into mitigation credits under the Deschutes Basin mitigation program.
Contested Case Hearings and Litigation: Applications for new water use permits and water right transfers are open to public review and comment, and interested members of the public have an opportunity to challenge applications in a "contested case hearing" before an administrative law judge. When possible, we seek to resolve conflicts through open communication and negotiation, and have successfully done so on behalf of many clients. We also recognize that litigation is sometimes the best means of securing or protecting water rights. In those cases, we draw on our significant experience in water rights litigation to achieve the best possible outcome.