Somach Simmons & Dunn | Attorneys at Law



  • University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law (J.D., 2014)
  • University of Denver (B.S., 2011)


  • California
  • Colorado
  • United States District Court for the Eastern District of California

Michelle E. Chester
LinkedIn Bio

Michelle Chester’s practice includes water rights law, water quality, and land use, in both California and Colorado. Experienced in state and federal environmental laws, she counsels public and private clients on administrative adjudication, trial and appellate litigation, as well as transactional matters.

Drawing on experience in administrative and public agency law, and a background that blends environmental science and policy, Michelle works effectively among government representatives and technical experts on matters pertaining to property rights, permitting, and regulatory compliance.  She has experience with the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act, the California Environmental Quality Act, as well as state and federal administrative procedures and accompanying regulations.  Her experience before the California State Water Resources Control Board includes preparing and defending investigations of clients’ water rights, crafting arguments in administrative adjudications over water storage and delivery projects of statewide concern, and advising public entities on compliance with discharge permitting.  Her developing experience in Colorado includes reviewing and drafting ditch easements and agreements, as well as review of public entities’ compliance with water quality regulations.

As an attorney with the California Energy Commission, Michelle developed an in-depth understanding of the interconnection of the state’s energy and water infrastructure.  Her representation of agency staff in administrative hearings for the licensing of natural gas power plants involved science on issues of water resources, land use planning, air quality, and endangered species.

Michelle has additional experience in hazardous waste site mitigation with the Department of Toxic Substances Control, and land use planning and climate change policy formation with the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research.

Michelle is a founding member of Somach Simmons & Dunn’s pro bono committee, which educates firm attorneys about available pro bono opportunities and supports attorneys’ efforts in performing public service and community outreach.  She is also a participant in the Sacramento Legal Employers Diversity Collective, a partnership between the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law and Sacramento-area legal employers.

Outside of work, Michelle enjoys hiking and running on northern California trails and exploring national parks.

Representative Matters

Assist in representation of the State of Texas in original jurisdiction proceeding before the United States Supreme Court regarding enforcement of the Rio Grande Compact.

Assist in representation of public entities in administrative and state court proceedings related to the proposed California WaterFix project.

Represent landowners and public agencies with respect to the existence and scope of their water rights, including proceedings before the State Water Resources Control Board.

Represented California city in water rights and quiet title litigation.

Negotiated water and sewer line easement agreement for California city.

Represented national manufacturer in rulemaking proceeding before the California Energy Commission.

Insights and Activities

  • Member, Sacramento County Bar Association
  • Member, Denver Bar Association
  • Co-Vice Chair, Year in Review: Water Resources Chapter, Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources, American Bar Association, 2018-2020
  • Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), Volunteer Attorney

Recent Articles

Water Quality Legislation Attracts Bipartisan Support

President Biden’s “Build Back Better” initiative proposes to invest $111 billion in rebuilding and modernizing drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, as well as funding other water quality-related priorities, including addressing ... Read More

Nevada Supreme Court Holds That State May Not Reallocate Adjudicated Water Rights for Public Trust

Somach Synopsis - Mineral County v. Lyon County This decision impacts how the public trust is viewed specifically in Nevada, but it also provides insights into public trust law in ... Read More

Appellate Court Upholds State Water Board’s Drought Emergency Regulations and Curtailment Orders Issued for Deer Creek

On June 18, 2020, the Third District Court of Appeal affirmed the lower court’s determination that the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) lawfully adopted emergency regulations and ... Read More

State Water Board Adopts Regulations for Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program

On May 5, 2020, the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) adopted regulations to update the Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (ELAP), which oversees the accreditation of environmental testing ... Read More

Five Things for California Water Agencies to Know About COVID-19

Somach Simmons & Dunn intends to provide periodic updates regarding the potential impacts of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on operations for water agencies.  This first alert provides a summary of ... Read More


  • University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law (J.D., 2014)
  • University of Denver (B.S., 2011)


  • California
  • Colorado
  • United States District Court for the Eastern District of California