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KWUA pushes back on Tribes lawsuit

Klamath Water Users Association on Wednesday filed a 49-page brief objecting to the Klamath Tribes request for a court order that could eventually shut off Klamath Project irrigation water in order to maintain Upper Klamath Lake elevation levels for endangered suckers.

Sunnyside Irrigation District and Tulelake resident Ben DuVal are co-intervenors in the case, which will be heard in U.S. District Court of Northern California in San Francisco on Friday, July 20.

“I would suspect that if the Tribes prevail, we could expect a shutdown extremely soon after that,” said Scott White, executive director of the KWUA.


“In 2001 — That was early in the season when they determined that the Project wasn’t going to get any water so people had the opportunity not to put seed in the ground, and choose not to make the investment necessary.

“This year, is an exception to that, so a mid-season shutoff, I mean it’d be just catastrophic because there’s so much money in the ground already this year that it’s just – You’re looking at a total and complete loss,” he said.

Not to mention the longterm effects, White added.

“There’s a lot of growers that have contracts they need to fulfill … and those contracts take years to get, and if those contracts go away, then they don’t have somebody to grow food for next year or the year after,” White said.

“Those are very, very valuable to the individual growers, and those, in theory, could go away with the Project shutdown.

The water users told the court that the Klamath Tribes are trying to recycle discredited theories about Upper Klamath Lake levels and overall sucker populations, White said.

“We would have much preferred to have this conversation outside of the courts, but that’s not the path the plaintiffs chose and now all I think about is what this will mean for our community regardless of outcome,” White said in a news release.

Klamath Tribes Chairman Don Gentry told the Herald and News the Tribes spent a lot of time considering their actions to file litigation as a necessary response to concerns by the Tribes that the sucker will go extinct in Upper Klamath Lake under current drought conditions.

“The interest is to protect our fish from going extinct, and it’s not directed in a manner to provide harm to the agricultural community,” said Gentry. “It’s directed towards ... what we need to do to protect our fish.

“If we lose these fish, it indicates that we’re setting ourselves up for a dire future,” Gentry added. “It’s a part of our subsistence and culture that we haven’t been able to harvest since 1986.

The sucker — known as the Koptu and C’waam to the Tribes — is a resource that the Tribes were guaranteed under the Treaty of 1864 between the tribes and the U.S. Government, Gentry said.

“Not only have we lost the salmon for 100 years, but we’re on the verge of losing the C’waam and Koptu, which people thought would be here forever when we negotiated the treaty,” Gentry said.

“Our immediate concern is to protect those fish and provide for future harvestable opportunities for our members because it’s so important for treaty rights and exercise of our subsistence rights and our culture and traditions.”



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