Ninth Circuit Hears Klamath Basin Water Rights Case

The Klamath Water Users Association and other appellants asked a Ninth Circuit appeals panel on Wednesday to reverse a 2023 district court ruling that sided with tribes and fish in a dispute over water rights in the Klamath Basin.

U.S. District Judge William Orrick had ruled last year that the federal government must follow its own laws, such as the Endangered Species Act, and isn’t obligated to comply with an Oregon order to stop releasing water from the Upper Klamath Lake, which is the source of the Klamath River.

Lawyers for the water users argued that contracts require irrigation to be prioritized over other obligations. But attorneys for the tribes contended that the tribes have senior water rights and that the Endangered Species Act mandates conserving the fish.

The panel, which included Judges Mary Schroeder, Ronald Gould, probed both sides’ arguments. Judge Nelson called the case “odd” and questioned if the fish should really get water priority over farmers growing food. The panel took the case under submission for a later ruling that could have major implications for how water is allocated in this contested region.

source: Court News Service

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