FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 1, 2020
Contact Information: Paul Simmons, KWUA Executive Director
(916) 769-6685; firstname.lastname@example.org
Nathan Rietmann, Klamath Irrigation District Counsel
(541) 551-2740; email@example.com
KLAMATH IRRIGATION DISTRICT SCORES WATER RIGHTS WIN
A Marion County Circuit Court Judge has ruled in favor of Klamath Irrigation District (KID) in a lawsuit concerning water stored in Upper Klamath Lake for irrigation. At the same time, district leadership says that the impact of the ruling on 2020 water availability is currently unknown. Therefore, farmers should not change plans or assume they will receive
more water this year because of the ruling.
Link River Dam impounds water in Upper Klamath Lake. In its 2013 order in the Klamath Basin water rights adjudication, the Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD) ruled that only irrigation users have water rights to the stored water. But the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) releases water from storage to artificially increase Klamath River
flows without a water right.
Earlier this year, KID went to court and obtained an order to compel OWRD to take exclusive charge of UKL and deliver the water to the persons entitled to it under their water rights. However, OWRD continued to allow Reclamation to use stored water in UKL for artificial enhancement of stream flows. Consequently, KID took OWRD back to court.
In its ruling last week, the court determined that OWRD “has wrongfully allowed the release of Stored Waters from UKL for uses by the Bureau.” The Court also found that “OWRD’s failure is a deprivation of a precious resource” and “an infringement of property rights of established users.” Upon such basis, the Court has indicated that it will enter an injunction to compel OWRD to stop the release of stored water from UKL without a water
right. However, further legal proceedings must occur before any such injunction is entered.
“The lawsuit is about straight-forward enforcement of state water law,” said KID attorney
Nathan Rietmann. On July 29, Judge Bennett issued an opinion that will
“The lawsuit is about straight-forward enforcement of state water law,” said KID attorney Nathan Rietmann. On July 29, Judge Bennett issued an opinion that will require OWRD to take control to ensure that stored water to lawful users. “The court applied the law the way it should be applied.”
Although the decision is encouraging, it does not result in an increased irrigation supply at this time. “More things have to happen before we finally secure the water that is stored for irrigation,” said KID President Ty Kliewer. “The Court has to issue a final order, OWRD has to do what is required, and even still that may not be the end,” according to Kliewer.
Mr. Kliewer emphasized that water users should not assume any increase in the current irrigation allocation. “Water managers from the irrigation districts and farmers have done a great job in an impossible situation.” “We can’t break the bank right now.”
Mr. Kliewer also said that, no matter what happens this year, protection of the stored water will remain a high priority for KID. “We’re committed to protect our rights and we’re not going away.”