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Judge rejects irrigators’ protest

Decision supports settlement between Tribes, Project irrigators

by Ty Beaver, Herald and News 1/6/10

A judge rejected an attempt by some irrigators off the Klamath Reclamation Project to halt a water settlement between the Klamath Tribes and on-Project irrigators.

James W. Han, an administrative law judge with the Oregon Water Resources Department, issued the decision on New Year’s Eve.

In his decision, Han criticized those filing the motion, referred to as the Upper Basin Contestants, for doing so in an untimely fashion. He also rejected their arguments, which included claims that their rights to due legal process in the Klamath Basin’s water adjudication were denied by the settlement.

“(The Upper Basin Contestants’) argument displays a fundamental misunderstanding of the adjudication process,” Han’s ruling reads.

The Tribes and on-Project irrigators reached a settlement last summer that allowed Project irrigators access to certain amounts of water from Upper Klamath Lake depending on water year.

By reaching that agreement, both parties agreed to drop their contests against each other’s claims for that water in the state-administered adjudication process, which defines how much water individual water rights holders receive.

Several off-Project irrigators protested, saying the settlement denied their rights to due process because it did not allow them to challenge it. They also said it was illegal for the state’s water resources department to participate in settlement negotiations.

Tom Mallams, one of the contestants and an off-Project irrigator participating the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement discussions, said he didn’t know the next step for the irrigators who filed the motion, but he stands by the motion. The restoration agreement aims to resolve water rights among stakeholders in the Klamath River Basin.

“I think it just goes to show they are denying us due process,” Mallams said.


Jeff Mitchell, Klamath tribal councilman, said the Tribes are happy with the decision. He said it was the expected outcome, and that the Tribes have not sought to stop anyone from receiving due process in the adjudication.

“We always said this was a matter between the Tribes and Project folks,” he said.
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