STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Supreme Court declines to take up Klamath water users' case

The organization that represents farmers and ranchers in the Klamath Basin says that its 2001 claim against the federal government was rebuffed at the Supreme Court this week.

Posted: Jun 22, 2020 12:02 PM
Updated: Jun 22, 2020 12:18 PM

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — The U.S Supreme Court has declined to take up a long-running case filed by farmers and ranchers in the Klamath Basin demanding compensation from the federal government for water use limits.

The Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA), an organization that represents a coalition of irrigators in the region, announced the decision in a statement on Monday.

“The Court accepts review of a very small percentage of cases. Still, this development is very disappointing,” said KWUA Executive Director Paul Simmons.

The case, dubbed Baley v. United States, was filed in 2001 after the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation ordered that water levels in Upper Klamath Lake be kept at a certain level in an attempt to protect several species of fish native to both the lake and the Klamath River.

Attempts to revive the populations of Lost River and Shortnose suckers, two species sacred to the Klamath Tribe, have been led by the tribes and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A separate but related effort to preserve Coho salmon in the Klamath River has come from the Yurok Tribe of northern California.

Plaintiffs in the 2001 case argued that the federal government was required under the Fifth Amendment to pay compensation to irrigators for limiting their water rights.


RELATED: Farmers organize convoy to call attention to water issues in Klamath Basin


"Ultimately, last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit agreed with the trial court that the plaintiffs were not entitled to compensation because there existed senior, tribal rights for lake levels and flows in at least as great amounts as were required under the ESA," the KWUA said. "That logic meant that no property was actually taken, according to the trial court."

Irrigators petitioned the Supreme Court for a review of the case, claiming that the 2017 decision was based on "fundamental misunderstandings and misapplications of western water law by the federal courts." The petition was supported by briefs from multiple other organizations and local county governments.

“We thought we had a decent chance, but it did not go the way we wanted. There is no choice but to move on,” Simmons said. “Going forward, we focus on having enough water, period. The Klamath Project is authorized for irrigation and should be operated for irrigation.”

“This decision affirms sound and settled principles of Tribal reserved water rights," said attorney Stefanie Tsosie of Earthjustice, an environmental law firm. "Earthjustice has long worked to protect and restore the Klamath River and its salmon, which hold significant cultural value for Tribes in the Klamath Basin and are essential to sustaining the West Coast commercial salmon fishing industry.”

Klamath farmers and ranchers organized a rally at the end of May, attempting to bring greater attention to the water shortages that they face. While the "Shut Down & Fed Up" push did not immediately produce a major reversal of existing federal policy, the KWUA reported that a proposal to further reduce the water supply for irrigators did not materialize.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 361240

Reported Deaths: 4318
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah56287712
Washington39109325
Marion37168457
Clackamas30096309
Lane28087306
Jackson23248310
Deschutes20680125
Umatilla14567151
Linn13113132
Douglas12237251
Josephine9451198
Yamhill8820114
Klamath8146122
Polk746481
Malheur568578
Benton559831
Coos510295
Columbia388144
Jefferson381254
Lincoln324139
Union321550
Crook296346
Wasco291941
Clatsop244828
Baker204529
Tillamook198033
Hood River195837
Morrow186623
Curry182725
Harney114727
Grant100213
Lake96012
Wallowa69312
Gilliam1594
Sherman1573
Wheeler1091
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 4854041

Reported Deaths: 71417
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles148510526549
Riverside3716705041
San Diego3678574183
San Bernardino3586775720
Orange3251235578
Sacramento1596362313
Kern1472941652
Fresno1463182094
Santa Clara1455431897
Alameda1206921415
San Joaquin1027761721
Ventura1010381167
Contra Costa1000181008
Stanislaus862991335
Tulare80375978
San Francisco54440649
San Mateo54168623
Monterey50911586
Solano46063341
Santa Barbara45223523
Merced42422581
Sonoma40997404
Placer39435429
Imperial36071766
Kings32938325
San Luis Obispo29973333
Madera23955285
Shasta23924352
Butte23818273
Santa Cruz21034221
Yolo20397248
Marin17706244
El Dorado17207149
Sutter13937175
Napa12898100
Yuba1011582
Tehama9534110
Humboldt9269109
Nevada916790
Mendocino766787
Lassen758747
San Benito744972
Tuolumne691790
Lake6631105
Amador547364
Siskiyou451246
Glenn438433
Calaveras391481
Del Norte358742
Colusa307618
Inyo214241
Mono16723
Plumas16607
Mariposa133916
Trinity88011
Modoc6895
Sierra1880
Unassigned1460
Alpine1050
Out of CA00
Medford
Cloudy
53° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 53°
Brookings
Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 54°
Crater Lake
Cloudy
53° wxIcon
Hi: 42° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 53°
Grants Pass
Cloudy
53° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 53°
Klamath Falls
Mostly Cloudy
49° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 42°
Lingering showers today
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events