The Nevada Supreme Court upheld the state engineer's authority to regulate Humboldt River water rights on the South Fork Indian Reservation near Elko. The ruling goes against the South Fork Band of the Te-Moak, headed by Marvin McDade who had tribal police arrest three state water commissioners last September when they crossed reservation land. March 1998 tribal resolutions barred water commissioners from the reservation and refused to pay assessments charged every Humboldt River water right holder. A Sept. 11 District Court hearing in Winnemucca will determine if the tribe is in contempt for arresting commissioners. Tribal members contend they have sovereign immunity. But the court said that immunity was waived when the Te-Moak accepted reservation land subject to previously adjudicated water rights. It got the land in the late 1930s and early 1940s, after the 1935 Humboldt Decree. From the 1940s on, the tribe paid water assessment fees and allowed the state engineer and the water commissioners access onto the reservation so they could reach water diversion boxes on the Humboldt - until 1998, justices said. The land acquisition subject to the already resolved water rights "constituted an express waiver of sovereign immunity," justices wrote, adding that tribal actions until 1998 ratified the waiver.
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