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'In the judge's hands now'
Attorneys deliver closing arguments in 'Takings' case

Third-generation rancher Luther Horsley listened from the courtroom gallery Tuesday as Federal Judge Marian Blank Horn heard closing arguments from the plaintiff and the defendant in U.S. Federal Court of Claims in Washington, D.C., marking the official end of the “Takings” case trial.

The plaintiff includes those who irrigated or leased land to irrigate with Klamath Reclamation Project water in 2001, represented by Washington, D.C.-based Marzulla Law. The defendant is represented by Kristine S. Tardiff, of the U.S. Department of Justice Environmental & Natural Resources. Both counsels shared their final statements, giving Judge Horn the opportunity to ask questions about the case that stems from Bureau of Reclamation shutoffs to irrigation water in 2001 in protection of threatened coho salmon and endangered Lost River and shortnose sucker.

At the end

Horsley was the sole irrigator to make the trip for closing arguments, and expressed relief via phone at the trial’s end, just outside the courthouse. Horsley, whose family settled in Langell Valley in 1920, couldn’t venture a guess at how many times he’s traveled to the nation’s capital for the purpose of the “Takings” case.

“This case has been going on since Oct. 11, 2001,” Horsley said. “It was a relief. We were relieved to finally be there at the end. It’s in the judge’s hands now.”

The case, consolidated as Lonny E. Baley, et al, v. United States and Pacific Federation of Fisherman’s Association also includes John Anderson Farms Inc., et al, v. United States.

The plaintiff and the defendant submitted written closing arguments in addition to the in-person courtroom proceeding, according to Klamath Falls water attorney Bill Ganong, who served as special counsel on the case.

“It’s going to take some time to sort out the issues and write the opinion, so it’ll be a while,” Ganong told the Herald and News by phone.

Back and forth

Ganong, who updated Judge Horn on water adjudication and rights during closing arguments, also shared broadly about the proceeding.

“She let everybody – both sides – say what they wanted to say,” Ganong said. “She asked a ton of questions. It was a good oral argument. It’s kind of fun when you get to go back and forth with the judge.

“It was worthwhile coming back,” Ganong added. “I think it went as well as it could go. I think everybody has a sense of relief, including the judge.”

Headed back to the Klamath Basin today, Horsley said he “eagerly anticipates” the judge’s decision.

“For our ag community, the impact that it’s had on us, the influence it could have on our future,” Horsley said.

“I would like to see future generations have the same opportunities that I’ve had, and those opportunities were established by our predecessors,” Horsley said. “They put a lot of work into this and we have an obligation to ensure that it’s there for future generations. I hope that’s what we obtain through this decision.”

On the line

If the plaintiff prevails in the case, the judge could choose to distribute an award totaling up to $28 million, plus interest accrued since 2001, to property owners and those who leased land in 2001 to irrigate with Klamath Reclamation Project water.

Horsley emphasized the money isn’t the goal of the case.

“What I really would like to see is that we set a precedent that the government doesn’t take our water without compensation,” Horsley said.

Those who believe they could be eligible to join the class action lawsuit can still submit forms to participate. To learn more and to fill out forms, visit www.kwua.org. Forms are due no later than 5 p.m., Friday May 19 at Ganong’s law office, 514 Walnut St., Klamath Falls.


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