Federal agency’s actions result in destruction and total taking of church property in Nye County
For Immediate Release
Contact Michael Schaus, 702-222-0642
LAS VEGAS — Due to the Federal government’s decision to divert water away from a church group’s private land in Nye County more than five years ago, the most recent rains in Southern Nevada have resulted in yet another flood — forcing the Nevada Policy Research Institute’s Center for Justice to file a new takings claim in federal court on behalf of Ministerio Roca Solida (Solid Rock Ministry).
“Because of the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s actions more than five years ago, less and less rainfall now results in greater and greater flooding,” said Joe Becker, director of NPRI’s Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation.
The trouble began in late 2010, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service illegally and deliberately diverted a spring-fed stream to which Solid Rock Ministry had vested water rights — a stream which had traversed the private property now owned by the church since at least as early as the late 1800s.
This movement of the waterway and taking of the Ministry’s vested water rights was done without the requisite Clean Water Act permits, in direct violation of FEMA requirements, and with no regard for the Ministry’s religious use of the water for baptisms.
The scofflaw water diversion project had other ramifications as well. In addition to stripping the Ministry of its access to its “river baptism” waters, the diversion has resulted in repeated flooding of the church property.
As predicted years ago by Solid Rock Ministry’s expert hydrologist, erosion from repeated floods — which began after the Fish and Wildlife Service finished its inadequate diversion channel around the property — has carved away large swaths of the once pristine 40 acre property.
And, because of the federal government’s dangerously negligent construction of the channel — never engineered to accommodate any rain or runoff waters — the damage has been compounding.
“A mini-grand-canyon now cuts through what was once lush wetlands, and the significant improvements made to structures and the land for the benefit of young campers are being undone with each recurring flood” explained Becker.
“Sadly, the damage done by this repeated flooding is now so severe, there is no choice left but to hold the federal government accountable for a complete taking,” said Becker.
Due to the excessive damage brought on by the government’s unconstitutional taking of the Ministry’s vested water rights, Solid Rock Ministry, represented by NPRI’s CJCL, filed its new Complaint for an unconstitutional taking of the entire 40 acre property plus the loss of its vested water rights for the past 5+ years, before the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, DC — the only federal court with jurisdiction over a takings claim that has now risen to an amount in excess of 3 million dollars.
More background on the case:
Because the United States violated multiple constitutional rights in one factual swoop in August of 2010, the SOLID ROCK MINISTRY filed a Complaint for the tort, due process, and free exercise claims in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada and a takings claim in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims back in 2012 — along with a motion to stay proceedings in that court pending the outcome of the injunctive relief sought in the District Court.
The UNITED STATES however, argued before the Court of Federal Claims that, pursuant to United States v. Tohono O'Odham Nation and that case’s re-interpretation of a longstanding jurisdictional statute as to what constitutes the “same claim,” Plaintiff could not pursue all its claims. The Claims Court held that the Church could not bring a takings claim in the Federal Court of Claims whilst seeking relief for other government transgressions in U.S. District Court — despite the fact that no single federal court had jurisdiction over all the claims, or could make the Plaintiff constitutionally whole for each of the government’s constitutional violations.
Because justice demands that a jurisdictional statute cannot be interpreted to force a Plaintiff to forgo one constitutional right to remedy another, the church, pastored by Victor Fuentes, filed a Petition for Certiorari before the U.S. Supreme Court which, despite an amicus brief filed on the Church’s behalf by the State of Nevada, was denied.
Meanwhile, because the District Court moved so slowly on the Church’s remaining claims, Pastor Fuentes was left with no choice but to voluntarily dismiss claims at the District Court, simply so it could vindicate its constitutional right to be free of an uncompensated taking — a takings claim which, due to three more floods at the hands of government, has now become the claim on which the church can be made closest to whole.
Sadly, the damage done by this repeated flooding is now so severe, there is no choice left but to hold the federal government accountable for a complete taking, without the availability of the tort remedy or the injunctive relief originally sought to restore the property to its pre-diversion-project condition.
For these reasons, today, Solid Rock Ministry filed its new Complaint for an unconstitutional taking of the entire 40 acre property plus the loss of its vested water rights for the past 5 years, before the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, DC, the only federal court with jurisdiction over a claim that has now risen to an amount in excess of 3 million dollars.
Download 07-12-16-Fuentes Final Complaint FINAL DRAFT
Download 07-12-16-Notice of Directly Related Cases
Media inquiries should be directed to Kevin Dietrich, NPRI's Communications Director.