HELENA — The Montana Supreme Court has announced a new chief water judge.

Associated water court judge Russell McElyea will take over for the retiring Bruce Loble. McElyea starts July 1.

The water court was established in 1979 to adjudicate water rights claims throughout the state. More than 200,000 water-rights claims will eventually be adjudicated through the Water Court.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike McGrath says McElyea was the most qualified to direct the water rights process toward its conclusion.

Loble had held the post since 1990.

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