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Environment, Energy and Transportation

SCOTUS Declines To Hear Klamath Water Rights Case

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
Aerial view of Upper Klamath Lake, near Klamath Falls, Oregon

The US Supreme Court has declined to take up a Klamath Basin water dispute that goes back nearly two decades.

During a severe drought in 2001, the federal government dramatically reduced irrigation water to Klamath Basin farmers and ranchers to benefit threatened and endangered fish. The irrigators sued, saying their water from the federal irrigation project had been unconstitutionally taken without compensation.

Federal courts eventually ruled that the region’s Native American tribes have senior water rights, so the irrigators did not own ”property” that had been “taken.” The irrigators appealed and Monday, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, allowing the previous ruling to stand.

The Klamath tribes claimed the decision as a victory that reinforced the legal standing of their water rights.

The Klamath Water Users Association said in a statement they were disappointed, but that they planned to focus on trying to make sure irrigators get enough water going forward.