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Montezuma Valley Irrigation Co. v. Board of County Commissioners of the County of Montezuma.

2020 COA 161. No. 19CA1588.  CRS § 43-5-305(1)—Obligation to Maintain and Replace a Culvert.

November 12, 2020

Montezuma Valley Irrigation Company (MVIC) is a mutual ditch and reservoir company. It owns and maintains the U Lateral Ditch, which passes under County Road W in Montezuma County (county). At some point a culvert was installed under County Road W where it intersects with the U Lateral Ditch to allow water from the ditch to pass under the road. In 2017, the county determined the culvert had reached the end of its useful life and needed to be replaced. The county asked MVIC to pay for a new culvert, and it declined. In 2018, the county replaced the culvert and sought reimbursement from MVIC.

MVIC filed a complaint for declaratory judgment and a motion for summary judgment, arguing that CRS § 43-5-305(1) assigns responsibility for replacing the culvert to the county. The district court granted MVIC’s summary judgment motion.

On appeal, the county argued that the district court ignored genuine issues of material fact in granting summary judgment and misinterpreted the statute. Specifically, the county contended that there were issues of material fact surrounding the meaning of the word “maintain” in the statute. However, the issues the county raised involve questions of law. Therefore, the district court did not err in deciding the legal issues on summary judgment.

The county also argued that it was error to interpret CRS § 43-5-305(1) to require the county’s maintenance obligation to include the obligation to replace the culvert. However, the duty to “maintain” in CRS § 43-5-305(1) unambiguously includes the duty to replace.

The judgment was affirmed.

Official Colorado Court of Appeals proceedings can be found at the Colorado Court of Appeals website.

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