SEVERE WX : Red Flag Warning View Alerts

Tribes File Suit in Next Chapter of Klamath Lake Water Dispute

The Klamath Tribes have filed a lawsuit aimed at keeping sucker fish alive around the Upper Klamath by preserving water levels—prompting protest from the organization representing area farmers.

Posted: May 24, 2018 5:16 PM
Updated: May 24, 2018 5:37 PM

CHILOQUIN, Ore. — In yet another chapter of the ongoing dispute over water distribution along the Klamath River, the Klamath Tribes announced on Thursday that they have filed a lawsuit under the Endangered Species Act against the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

The lawsuit aims to preserve water levels at Upper Klamath Lake—and so, the Klamath Tribes claim, save the populations of sacred fish that live in the area.

“Our creation story tells us that if the C’waam go away, the people go away. Both the C’waam and Koptu, which are vital to our culture and subsistence, are now at imminent risk of extinction. The science makes it clear that this was the only option left to us to address the water and fish emergency in the lake,” said Klamath Tribal Chairman Don Gentry.

C'waam and Koptu are known, in English, as Lost River and Shortnose suckers, respectively. Both the Klamath Tribes and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been struggling to keep the fish alive in recent years as both water levels and water quality drop.

“These fish are reaching a tipping point. Too many fish are dying before they’re old enough to reproduce,” said Mark Buettner, a fisheries biologist for the Tribes.


CLICK HERE for background on the ongoing dispute over Klamath Lake water levels.


Yet the announcement earned an immediate response from the Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA), an organization that represents area farmers who rely on water from the Klamath River for irrigation.

“The Klamath Tribes have chosen a strategy of isolation from the irrigation community,” said Brad Kirby, General Manager of the Tulelake Irrigation District and President of KWUA. “We will intervene and oppose any action that could affect the already-limited Klamath Project water supply. Consultation is already happening.”

The KWUA recently lost in their attempt to fight a court-ordered injunction that preserved water in Upper Klamath Lake—a ruling that was spearheaded by the Yurok Tribe of Northern California in hopes of preserving Coho salmon populations.

With reasons of need proving ineffective in court—largely due to the power of the Endangered Species Act—the KWUA has primarily staked their case on disputing the environmental science provided by the Tribes, who claim that their studies show higher lake levels can benefit the struggling populations of Klamath fish.

“I’ve been studying suckers for over fifteen years,” said Mark Johnson, Deputy Director for the KWUA and former fisheries biologist for the U.S. Geological Survey. “I and many others are extremely interested in information that suggests that higher lake levels will work now when they haven’t for over 25 years.”

The Klamath Tribes are disputing 'deficiencies' in the 2013 Biological Opinion that currently governs mandated water levels to preserve wildlife populations on Upper Klamath Lake.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 207106

Reported Deaths: 2757
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah40396614
Washington26812249
Marion23444323
Clackamas18953235
Lane13924164
Jackson11549146
Deschutes1002782
Umatilla860987
Linn562281
Yamhill478679
Klamath477878
Polk400556
Douglas389583
Malheur362063
Josephine361772
Benton326922
Jefferson237139
Coos216737
Columbia192329
Union150124
Wasco144530
Lincoln143421
Crook129223
Hood River121733
Morrow115516
Clatsop10609
Baker102315
Curry72011
Tillamook6604
Grant5517
Lake4688
Harney4339
Wallowa1945
Gilliam811
Sherman701
Wheeler351
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3810808

Reported Deaths: 63373
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles124790924459
Riverside3017994627
San Bernardino2993204850
San Diego2818863771
Orange2731055113
Santa Clara1201922190
Kern1107991404
Sacramento1078721737
Fresno1029711724
Alameda897561277
Ventura816611031
San Joaquin748081440
Contra Costa70770813
Stanislaus635351070
Tulare49802849
Monterey43842432
San Mateo42685581
San Francisco37275556
Santa Barbara34621455
Solano33762266
Merced32315479
Sonoma30957317
Imperial28855741
Placer23604300
Kings23202247
San Luis Obispo21448261
Madera16647245
Santa Cruz16246208
Marin14208230
Yolo14165212
Butte12668195
Shasta12630233
El Dorado10401116
Napa1002880
Sutter9666113
Yuba651251
San Benito610963
Lassen579925
Tehama573563
Nevada493175
Humboldt450849
Mendocino434050
Tuolumne421671
Amador374247
Lake356345
Glenn243327
Siskiyou239837
Colusa228818
Calaveras220856
Del Norte14588
Inyo143438
Mono12984
Plumas7376
Modoc5635
Mariposa4657
Trinity4236
Sierra1170
Alpine890
Unassigned320
Medford
Clear
74° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 74°
Brookings
Partly Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 54°
Crater Lake
Clear
74° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 74°
Grants Pass
Partly Cloudy
74° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 74°
Klamath Falls
Partly Cloudy
62° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 62°
More thunderstorms Thursday, weekend heat wave
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events