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Klamath Irrigators to defend cause in 'takings' case

Herald and News by HOLLY DILLEMUTH 1/29/17

Members of the Klamath Water Users Association will be in Washington, D.C., this week during the ‘takings’ case; a federal trial that could affect water users in the Basin for years to come.

Over the next three weeks, more than 25 irrigators or those representing them will attend the trial for two consolidated cases, Klamath Irrigation District et al v. United States, and John Anderson Farms et al. v. United States.

Trial proceedings begin at 9 a.m. on Monday in the United States Federal Court of Claims at the Howard T. Markey Federal Courts Building in the nation’s capital. Of the more than 25 individuals attending, five are former KWUA presidents, according to Scott White, executive director of the KWUA.

White, former KWUA executive director Greg Addington, and irrigator Luther Horsley met with the H&N editorial board last week to discuss the case and the trial.

“That is a very big deal and a long time coming,” White said. “We’re all very excited to finally be at this place. Overall, we’re feeling optimistic.”

In 2001, the Klamath Reclamation Project water supply was shut off at the start of the irrigation season, due to biological opinions issued by the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Some water was made available to irrigators for livestock in July 2001, White said. “By that point, too little, too late,” he added. “It was very hard.

“This case is sort of getting to a point of addressing that,” White said.

The case has moved through the court system over the course of the last 16 years between three judges and several different courts.

But it hasn’t moved far from the hearts and minds of many irrigators, such as Luther Horsley, a Midland and Lower Klamath Lake irrigator.

“It was devastating, especially for row croppers,” Horsley said.

“I was fortunate because I was a grain farmer and hay and cattle, and I probably weathered it better than anyone. I still had to sell cows because I ran out of feed for them.”

Horsley plans to testify during the trial, which could last well into February.

“In 2001, the whole irrigation community was just aghast,” Horsley said.

“They announced there was no extra water for agriculture because the two biological opinions were going to require all the flows in the watershed, and that there would be no water deliveries to the Klamath Project.

“It’s taken 16 years through a lot of judicial filing motions,” Horsley added.

“Right now, we’re finally going to get our day in court.”

A determination could be made by Judge Marian Horn at the conclusion of the trial.

The plaintiffs may call representatives of the following to testify in the trial: Klamath Irrigation District, Malin Irrigation District, Shasta View Irrigation District, Klamath Drainage District, Westside Improvement District, Klamath Hills District Improvement and Enterprise Irrigation District.

The defendants may call representatives from following to testify in the trial: the Klamath Basin Area Office of the United States Bureau of Reclamation, United States Fish & Wildlife, National Marine Fisheries Service, Oregon State University, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of California, Berkeley, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Oregon Farm Service Agency.

Local Reclamation officials declined to comment for the story.




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