With nearly 15 years of experience, Sheela practices in the areas of water planning, water adjudications, water quality permitting and environmental compliance. Her clients include municipalities, special districts, mining companies, developers, trade associations, and a wide variety of businesses regulated by the government.
By taking a collaborative and reasonable approach, Sheela has a track record of successfully negotiating agreeable resolutions between her clients, state and federal agencies, stakeholder groups, and opposing parties. She is now a certified mediator, helping clients in the areas of environmental and water law conflicts, civil disputes, and real estate and land use issues.
Water Rights Adjudications and Water Planning. Sheela helps water users secure the water rights they need to do business now and plan proactively to satisfy their water needs for the future. She has considerable experience assisting clients in navigating, from start to finish, the complex water adjudication process including filing applications, drafting decrees, preparing for litigation, responding to statements of opposition, negotiating stipulations with opposing parties, and submitting final entries to the water court. Sheela has handled complex adjudications involving water storage rights, water rights transfers, and water exchanges and substitutions.
Recently, Sheela settled a complex water storage rights case involving 40+ opponents, providing her municipal clients with vital water storage to meet the needs of their respective service areas.
Water Quality Permitting. Sheela represents clients in water quality permitting issues with a particular emphasis on MS4 stormwater permitting for municipalities. When Colorado's Water Quality Control Division announces changes to existing water discharge or stormwater permits, Sheela serves as a passionate advocate for her clients' interests. She analyzes the proposed changes, advises on the impact each change will have, and drafts comments reflecting her clients' concerns.
Throughout this rigorous state agency and stakeholder process, Sheela actively engages in planning sessions and stakeholder meetings and advises her clients on strategic next steps—all with the goal of finding a middle ground all parties can agree on. When a resolution cannot be reached through amicable negotiation and consensus-building efforts, Sheela assists in filing appropriate lawsuits to formally oppose such rule changes.
Representing a council consisting of 60 municipalities, Sheela played an important role in opposing the proposed changes to the current MS4 stormwater permit; as a result, the state agency pulled their proposal and began working with stakeholders to draft new revisions. In addition, Sheela helped clients and other stakeholders understand and formally comment on the impacts of the Clean Water Act's new proposed rule.
Environmental Compliance. Sheela defends her clients against alleged permitting violations and helps them obtain and comply with environmental permitting requirements. Her experience includes industrial discharge, sand and gravel, and stormwater.
For clients facing notices of violation, Sheela is particularly adept at bringing them back into compliance and negotiating with state agencies to reduce penalties associated with the violation. Recently, she assisted in representing a commercial greenhouse accused of discharging effluent water without a permit. She worked with consultants and agency officials to obtain the proper permits, which required modifications to the client's facility; in addition, Sheela was successful in negotiating a settlement that resulted in a 64 percent reduction on the amount of the civil penalty.
"The Anti-Speculation Doctrine Extended to Change of Water Rights Cases: A New Dilemma for Water Rights Owners," University of Denver Water Law Review, Volume 9, Issue 2, Co-Author, Spring 2006
"Water Law," Annual Survey of Colorado Law, 2002 and 2003 Editions
"Clean Water Act Discussion: How the EPA's New Proposed Rule May Impact You and Your Business," Ryley Carlock & Applewhite Seminar, August 2014
"Water Rights Changes of Transfers," CLE International, March 2008
- Women in Water Law, Co-Founder, 2012-present
- Mediation Association of Colorado, Member
- 18th Judicial Court, Volunteer Mediator
- Denver Bar Association, Diversity in the Legal Profession Committee
- Colorado Women's Chamber of Commerce
- Colorado Bar Association
- Arapahoe County Bar Association
- American Bar Association