John R. Hill

In Memoriam 

11/10/1936 - 08/19/2022


John R. Hill, Jr., had been in private practice in Gunnison since 1992, primarily representing clients in water law. Prior to entering private practice, John completed a distinguished career as an engineer within the United States Army and as an attorney with the United States Department of Justice. He assisted the Council on Environmental Quality in the drafting of regulations implementing NEPA and guidelines for administration Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. He also spent a number of years representing the United States in the adjudication of water rights for federal public lands across the western United States, including those in the nearby national forests.

Legal Experience:

Attorney 1992-2022

Law of the Rockies (and predecessor firms)

Gunnison, Colorado

Represents the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, the Arkansas Valley Ditch Association, ranchers, real estate developers. and property owners in all aspects of water rights and related matters including plans for augmentation, changes of water rights, quiet title suits, floating trespasses by rafters, and other property issues.

Experienced in all aspects of Colorado water law as well as the federal laws applicable to private and public water project development.

Recognized expertise in western water law and policy, and frequent speaker and panelist at local and regional water law conferences and seminars.

Taught water law at University of Denver College of Law.

Research Fellow 1992

Natural Resources Law Center,

University of Colorado School of Law,

Boulder, Colorado

Conducted academic research and writing on an emerging issue of Colorado water law.

Trial Attorney 1978-1991

Department of Justice,

Environment and Natural Resources Division,

Washington, D.C. and Denver, Colorado

Handled complex litigation involving the very sensitive and controversial area of federal-state relations in water law and policy.

Represented interests of the United States in water rights litigation including interests in major federal water resources (Bureau of Reclamation and Corps of Engineers) projects, national parks, national forests, military installations, and federal public lands in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and Montana.

Served as lead attorney for the United States in many important and notable cases including the application of American Water Development, Inc. (AWDI) in the San Luis Valley, the application of Arapahoe County in the Gunnison River, and the consolidated “Blue River Decree” cases in the United States District Court.

Practice Areas
George Washington University.
Juris Doctor, 1978

Stanford University.
Master of Science in Civil Engineering, 1963

United States Military Academy, West Point, New York.
Bachelor of Science, 1958
Professional Memberships
  • Colorado State Courts

  • Virginia State Courts

  • U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado

  • U.S. Court of Appeals, 10th Circuit

  • U.S. Court of Federal Claims

Other Work Experience:

Assistant Director of Civil Works 1975-1978

Office of the Chief of Engineers

Washington, D.C.

Served as the Assistant Director of Civil Works having responsibility for assisting the Director of Civil Works in coordination of the Corps of Engineers water resources programs west of the Continental Divide.

Coordinated Corps of Engineers environmental programs, and supervised nationwide environmental review of water projects.

Liaison with Congressional committees, Council on Environmental Quality, Environmental Protection Agency, Fish and Wildlife Service, and other federal resource management agencies, and the private conservation community.

Formulated and coordinated environmental policy recommendations to Director of Civil Works, Chief of Engineers and Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) and supervised implementation.

Commended by Chairman of Council on Environmental Quality for cooperation with and assistance to the Council in the development of the regulations implementing NEPA.

Speaker and panelist at national level conferences and workshops on wetlands, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and wildlife law and policy.

Department of the Army representative on Corps-EPA team drafting guidelines for discharge of dredged of fill material (Section 404(b)(1) Guidelines).

Frequent contact with Members of Congress, their staffs and other senior government officials.

Excellent working relationships with governmental and private environmental community.

Deputy District Engineer 1970-1972

U.S. Army Engineer District,

Huntington, West Virginia

Second-in-charge of 1200-employee organization engaged in planning, design, construction and operation of major water resources projects in an area that included portions of five states.

Extensive coordination with the water resource, wildlife, and mining agencies of the respective states.

Directed implementation of Refuse Act Permit Program -- the predecessor of the Clean Water Act NPDES program and the first comprehensive federal program to regulate point source discharges.

Directed recovery operations after Buffalo Creek Disaster in West Virginia in 1972.

Frequent contact with Members of Congress and staffs, business and industrial leaders and local officials.

United States Army 1958-1978

In addition to the foregoing Corps of Engineers civil works assignments, held a variety of command, military school and staff assignments in the United States, Europe and Asia, including two tours of duty in Vietnam with infantry and combat engineer units.

Directed facilities engineering including fire protection at major Department of Defense installation in Ohio.

Retired in 1978 in grade of Lieutenant Colonel.

  • “The ‘Right’ to Float Through Private Property in Colorado: Dispelling the Myth” 4 D.U. Water L. Rev. 331 (2001).

  • "Wetlands Protection: The Regulatory Role of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers," 4 Coastal Zone Management Journal 371 (1978) (co-author with Lance D. Wood).

  • Proceedings of the Western Regional Instream Flow Conference, October 20-21, 1989 "Federal Reserved Rights."

  • “Colorado Court Recognizes Federal Reserved Rights to Instream Flows in Rocky Mountain National Park,” 4 Rivers 243 (1993).

  • “Expert Testimony in an Instream Flow Case” (A review of a U.S. Government Publication), 5 Rivers 300 (1995).