Three Counties Formally Support Water Users in Current Litigation

March 11, 2003

Klamath Water Users Association

Three Klamath Basin counties today voiced formal support for Klamath Project water users in current litigation threatening water deliveries to the Klamath Project.

Earlier today, the Klamath County Board of Commissioners and the Boards of Supervisors in Modoc and Siskiyou counties all unanimously authorized the filing of briefs as amicus curiae ("friend of the court") in support of local water users.

The litigation is entitled Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Association, et al. v. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, et al, and is pending in the federal district court for the Northern District of California in Oakland.

The Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) has intervened on behalf of the defendants in this case, which is scheduled for hearing on April 29, 2003.

The plaintiff environmental organizations brought suit in April of 2002 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, claiming that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation was in procedural violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) with respect to coho salmon.

They sought a temporary restraining order that would preclude irrigation diversions if certain Klamath flows were not met.

The application for Temporary restraining order was denied on May 3, 2002.

A few weeks later, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) completed a biological opinion for operation of the Klamath Project for 2002 through 2012.

Several months later, plaintiffs filed an amended complaint against NMFS after the lower Klamath River fish die-off, challenging both technical and legal matters in the biological opinion, and against Reclamation, for allegedly violating the ESA.

Lower Basin tribes also are parties to this case and contend, among other things, that inadequate flows in 2002 violated their fishing rights.

Counties from the lower Klamath basin have already filed briefs supporting the plaintiffs, emphasizing the importance of fisheries to those counties.

Local officials believe today's decision by Klamath, Modoc and Siskiyou counties is a strong statement and acknowledgment that the plaintiff's remedy would almost certainly have severe impacts for the local agricultural community, businesses, and the county.

"It is significant that all three counties have unanimously decided to file a brief with the Court," said Klamath County Commissioner John Elliot.

"All three counties are particularly vulnerable to any form of water curtailment."