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Spur Valley water rights dispute
December 11, 2000

Another page has turned in the long running Spur Valley water rights saga.

The Spur Valley is a small settlement located in the Rocky Mountains near Radium, British Columbia. The ownership of a water system which serves a subdivision of about 80 properties, a campground and resort has been the subject of at least five B.C. Supreme Court decisions and one decision of the B.C. Expropriation Compensation Board since 1995.

The cause of the dispute arises from the fact that the water system and the land on which much of it is located was once in common ownership. However, the original developer of the subdivision and water system failed to transfer the water system assets into the ownership of a utility company that had been set up for that purpose. The developer went into receivership in 1982. An Improvement District was later formed by the residents of the subdivision to acquire the water licences and operate the water system but the land on which the pump house is located was acquired by Checkman Holdings (Calgary) Ltd., a company owned by Ron Csokonay. Csokonay operates a campground and resort. He also has water licences on the same creeks as the Improvement District.

For a period of time the parties were able to co-operate in management of the water system. However, difficulties later arose over responsibility for maintenance and access to the water works. Litigation commenced in 1995. An interim injunction issued in 1996 which has governed the operation of the water system to date. To complicate matters, the Improvement District also commenced expropriation proceedings in 1995 to acquire an interest in the Checkman property for operation of the water works.

A 1998 court order attempted to settle many of the disputed ownership issues. The court found that the Improvement District had a sufficient interest in the Checkman property for purposes of the water system such that expropriation was not necessary. However, the court left open the precise nature of the Improvement District's interest.

The Improvement District's expropriation under the Water Act was considered by the Expropriation Compensation Board in a 1999 decision. As the Water Act provides, the Board was asked to settle the terms of the statutory right of way sought by the Improvement District. Although the Board did so, it appears that the Improvement District did not follow through and complete the expropriation. Instead, it returned to court for a further order determining the precise nature of the interest it held in the Checkman property. The court's decision, released November 28, 2000, found that the Improvement District was entitled to an easement on the terms determined by the Expropriation Compensation Board. The decision is reported as Spur Valley (Improvement District) v. Csokonay, [2000] EXLAW 332. It is apparent that the Improvement District's decision not to follow through with the expropriation was motivated by the fact that it could achieve its objective through litigation without having to compensate Checkman.

The Improvement District was represented by Bruce Fairley of Davis & Fairley from Golden, B.C. Glen Purdy, of Majic & Purdy, from Fernie, B.C., appeared for Checkman and Csokonay.

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