Klamath Lake Water Fight Continues as Farmer Reps Strike Back

After the Klamath Tribes sued for higher mandated water levels in the lake, the organization representing area farmers is fighting to have their lawsuit dismissed.

Posted: Jun 8, 2018 12:23 PM
Updated: Jun 12, 2018 9:46 AM

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — A lawsuit filed against federal authorities in May by the Klamath Tribes was done in the wrong jurisdiction, according to a statement from the Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA).

The KWUA represents a coalition of Klamath County irrigators and farmers who fear that attempts to preserve fish populations in the Klamath Basin will lock them out of receiving any water for their livelihoods. The Yurok, Hoopa Valley and Klamath Tribes have spearheaded those efforts to rehabilitate fish—some of which are already being enforced by courts.

CLICK HERE for background on the ongoing struggle between water users and local tribes over water allocation.

The Klamath Tribes' lawsuit alleges that water levels at Upper Klamath Lake need to maintained at an even higher level in order to revive declining populations of sucker fish. That lawsuit was filed at a federal District Court in San Francisco.

According to the KWUA, San Franciso is "not a proper venue under the law."

“There are laws about where a lawsuit can be filed,” said Ben DuVal, a KWUA board member and President of the Modoc County Farm Bureau. “You can’t just file a lawsuit in New Jersey because that is where you want to go. That’s what our motion says. The Klamath Tribes lawsuit claims that part of the Klamath Project is in the judicial district based in San Francisco, but that’s not correct.”

However, previous rulings on the Klamath Project have come from the District Court in San Francisco. Judge William Orrick sided with the Hoopa Valley and Yurok Tribes to enforce "disease management flows"—maintaining water levels in Upper Klamath Lake and then occasionally flushing them into the Klamath River to prevent the spread of disease among fish like the Coho salmon.

The Klamath Tribes have a hearing with the same judge on July 11. According to KWUA President Brad Kirby, an injunction issued by Judge Orrick would shut down water for the Klamath Project until the year 2020.

“They want to require Upper Klamath to be held at unprecedented and artificially high elevations for suckers year-around,” said Kirby. “I wouldn’t expect there to be any water at all available for Klamath Project irrigation and wildlife refuges until there are new biological opinions, which is not expected until 2020.”

Below is a drawing submitted by a KWUA supporter outlining the water districts that make up the Klamath Project.

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