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  • County intervenes in Klamath Tribes water allocation lawsuit

Klamath County has joined multiple groups intervening in a lawsuit filed by the Klamath Tribes against the federal government, which seeks to protect endangered suckerfish in Upper Klamath Lake.

On Tuesday, county commissioners voted to file an amicus brief to become a “friend of the court,” allowing the county to present information that may impact a judge’s ruling on the case. County Counsel Mika Blain said she expected the brief to be filed by the end of the day Tuesday.

The Tribes filed suit May 23 against the Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service, calling on defendants to take “immediate, emergency measures” to provide enough water for suckerfish to survive in the lake.

Due to a warm and dry winter, the Klamath Basin is anticipating a severe drought this summer, and the Tribes said insufficient water in the lake could lead to an extinction-level event for the fish.

Klamath suckerfish are protected by the Endangered Species Act and the Tribes argue the federal government must provide enough water to comply with the act.

The suit has been met with resistance from the Klamath Water Users Association, which disagrees additional water would help the fish and claims the Tribes’ request would place undue and extreme hardship on local irrigators. On May 29, the Tribes requested an injunction that could lead to a shutoff of irrigation water, and on June 27 the association was among 12 parties who filed objections to the request.

A hearing scheduled for July 20 in San Francisco to consider the injunction.

Klamath County Commissioner Donnie Boyd was among the 12 parties, though he filed as an individual and not in his capacity as commissioner. Boyd told the court an irrigation shutoff would significantly harm local sales of farm equipment, citing his experience as former owner of Floyd A. Boyd Co., based in Merrill.

When commissioners decided to intervene Tuesday, Boyd disclosed his previous filing and said, as a private individual involved in the case, he could not sign the county’s motion to intervene. Commissioner Derrick DeGroot, chair of the board, was approved to sign the motion.

Multiple other parties have filed their intents to intervene in the case, including the Hoopa Valley Tribe, Yurok Tribe, Institute for Fisheries Resources, Klamath Riverkeeper and Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. The case is assigned to Ninth U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick, in San Francisco.




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