Water Users Fight Back in Klamath Project Shut-Off Litigation

— Published with Permission of —

Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) yesterday filed its objections to the Klamath Tribes’ request for a court order that would immediately shut off Klamath Project irrigation water in order to maintain higher Upper Klamath Lake elevations for endangered suckers.

The 49-page brief filed by KWUA with co-intervenors Sunnyside Irrigation District and Ben DuVal explains the motion “has been timed to maximize pain for family farms and rural communities.”

It also addresses scientific arguments as well as the severe consequences that would befall local farms, businesses, and communities if the request for a preliminary injunction were granted.

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The Klamath Tribes filed the lawsuit and motion for preliminary injunction on May 23. The hearing on the Tribes’ motion, and KWUA and federal parties’ pending motions to dismiss the case based on it being filed in the wrong court, is scheduled for July 20 before Judge William Orrick of the Federal District Court for the Northern District of California.

“We’ve explained to the Court that the Klamath Tribes’ are trying to recycle discredited theories about Upper Klamath Lake levels and overall sucker populations,” said Scott White, KWUA’s Executive Director.

“We would have much preferred to have this conversation outside of the courts, but that’s not the path the plaintiffs chose and now all I think about is what this will mean for our community regardless of outcome.”

KWUA’s papers point to work of the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences in 2004 and ongoing work of the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and others.

It details the history of the Klamath Project shut-off in 2001, noting that it was realized too late that the 2001 shut-off was not scientifically justified.

“The mistake of 2001 must not be repeated,” said Ryan Kliewer, a Henley area farmer and KWUA Board Member. “All the more so because this time there are crops in the ground, loans outstanding, delivery contracts to be filled, and many other commitments made for years.”

The filing included numerous declarations or affidavits from growers, former business owner and Klamath County Commissioner Donnie Boyd, and hydrology and science experts including KWUA President Brad Kirby and Deputy Director Mark Johnson, a former USGS biologist and a leading sucker expert.

The Bureau of Reclamation and Fish and Wildlife Service also responded to the Tribes’ motion.

White said KWUA will be reviewing their response in the next few days.

Gerry O’Brien is the editor for The Herald and News. Email him at or follow him on Twitter at @gerry_obrien1

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