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Hoopa Tribe Sues U.S. Government Over Trinity River Water

Trinity River
Bureau of Land Management
Trinity River

Northwest California’s Hoopa Valley Tribe is suing the federal government in an attempt to block new agreements that divert water from the Trinity River to agricultural users in the Central Valley.

The Hoopa tribe’s lawsuit is an attempt to block water agreements that are currently temporary but which are in the process of being converted into permanent contracts.

The agreements are between the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and agricultural users further south in the Central Valley.

The tribe argues that, with these new agreements, Reclamation is out of compliance with existing laws that prioritize water for fish habitat protection and restoration.

“We say that certain provisions in their contracts needs to be included, including providing for the environmental restoration and also adhering to what the law and the courts have said, that the Trinity is a priority first and foremost, before it’s exported into the Central Valley,” says Michael Orcutt, fisheries department director with the Hoopa Valley Tribe.

Orcutt says each year about half the water from the Trinity River is reserved for fish habitat and the other half is diverted to agricultural users.

The amount varies by year but it’s especially important during critically dry water years like this one.

The Trinity River flows for 165 miles from the Trinity Alps to its confluence with the Klamath River.

Erik Neumann is JPR's news director. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.