water users’ compensation claims in ‘Takings Case’
Oct 3, 2017, Herald and News
After 15 years of litigation, culminating in a lengthy trial
last January that brought over 25 Klamath Project water users to
Washington, D.C., the United Stated Court of Federal Claims
judge hearing the “Takings Case” ruled in favor of the United
The water users sought just compensation for taking of their
water rights in 2001 when the United States reallocated
irrigation water to threatened and endangered species under the
Endangered Species Act.
Judge Marian Blank Horn’s 75 page opinion, which was filed on
Sept. 29, concluded that, “The government’s actions in 2001, did
not, therefore, constitute a taking of these plaintiffs’
property under the Fifth Amendment of the United States
Constitution or effect an impairment of their rights under the
If the court had ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, the
government would have been ordered to compensate water users for
a “physical takings” of their property.
That was estimated upwards of $28 million.
“It was never about the money,” said Gary Wright, former
President of the Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA). “It has
always been about the future of our families and our community.”
“It is extremely disappointing,” said Scott White, KWUA
Executive Director. “When you watch a grown man wipe away his
tears on the witness stand, you really get a sense of what this
means. It is not easy to break this kind of news.”
White said that the Court did acknowledge that most landowners
within the Klamath Project have a property interest in the water
that it is protectable under the Fifth Amendment, and recognized
the seriousness of the impacts to the irrigation community from
the events of 2001.
However, the court agreed with the government’s argument that
because three tribes in the
Basin (Klamath, Yurok, and Hoopa Valley Tribes) have senior,
instream rights to water for fisheries, and those rights must be
for at least as much water as the ESA required, the Project
water users could not claim a right to the water that was
dedicated to the endangered species.
White also said that the water users who filed the case will
make any decisions about whether to appeal the court ruling.
“We’re certainly not out. We’re Klamath Basin family farmers and
ranchers. We’ll continue to strap up our boots and go to work.
We’re not going anywhere.”
More details on this case
will be reported in the H&N Wednesday.
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