Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 18, 2003
Contacts: Allen Foreman, Tribal Chairman, 541-783-2219
Bud Ullman, Tribesı water attorney, 541-783-3081
Don Wharton, Native American Rights Fund (land issues) 303-447-8760
Joe Browder, Washington D.C., 202-546-3720
Monica Shovlin, The Ulum Group, 541-434-7028
A Delicate Balance:
Klamath Tribes Respond To Court Decision
Ordering Rewrite of Klamath Basin Water Plan
Klamath Falls, Ore. The Klamath Tribes reminded the Bureau of Reclamation
of their existing legal obligations to protect endangered fish in Upper
Klamath Lake today in response to a ruling in Pacific Coast Federation of
Fishermenıs Association v. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in Oakland, Calif.
U.S. District Court Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong said the agency must
rewrite its 10-year plan for providing water to the Lower Klamath River and
protecting threatened salmon there, but she stopped short of ordering the
Bureau to change its policy this year and send more water to the river
³We remind the Bureau that watersheds are a single, intact and
interconnected entity, regardless of state borders or other jurisdictions,²
said Foreman. ³Additional flows for salmon on the Lower Klamath River must
not jeopardize the endangered Lost River and short-nose suckers living
upstream in Upper Klamath Lake.² Foreman observed that for years the Bureau
of Reclamation has been ³robbing Peter to pay Paul² because Klamath Basin
water has been over-promised to too many interests.
The Klamath Tribes had asked Judge Armstrong to be mindful of the effects of
her decision on the water supply in Upper Klamath Lake needed for tribal
fisheries, and her order does not interfere with Lake water supply. Chairman
Foreman emphasized that the BOR also must take into account effects its
remedy will have on the upstream water supply.
Foreman noted that Upper Klamath Lake provides a significant portion of the
Lower Klamath River stream flow and that BOR is legally obligated to protect
Upper Klamath Lakeıs water supply against diversions that harm fish.
Fisheries in the lake must be protected to comply with the United Statesı
obligation to restore abundant Klamath Tribesı fisheries under the Treaty of
1864, and to comply with the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by meeting the
water needs of the Lost River and short-nose suckers.
Foreman also cited Kandra v. United States, in which the U.S. argued that an
adequate water supply in the lake is essential to satisfying legal
requirements. The supply must be protected against diversion for irrigation
because, as the court recognized, ³(o)nce that water is diverted to other
uses, it may not be recaptured² and the effect on fisheries canıt be undone
if the remaining water quantities are inadequate.
Klamath tribal fisheries have been closed for 17 consecutive years. They
were originally closed in 1986 because fish populations were declining at an
alarming rate. The Lost River and short-nose suckers were listed under the
Endangered Species Act in 1988. Pollution of Upper Klamath Lake and its
tributaries, along with agricultural withdrawals from the lake and streams,
contributed to the decline.
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