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Water users push back on injunction

A group of Klamath Basin water users Wednesday filed a motion in federal court in San Francisco pushing for at least a delay in the court-ordered injunction to keep 50,000 acre feet held in reserve in Upper Klamath Lake.

The water is to be used to flush out the Klamath River in the spring to mitigate the impact of disease on coho salmon.

Klamath Water Users Association, Sunnyside Irrigation District, Klamath Irrigation District, Klamath Drainage District and Tulelake farmer Ben DuVall intervened in the case brought by the Hoopa Valley and Yurok Tribes vs. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.


“That 50,000 acre feet has to be available up until 80 percent of the coho salmon have emigrated or June 15, whichever comes first,” said Scott White, executive director of the KWUA.

All parties said they believe the injunction is unnecessary, especially in the upcoming 2018 water year.

“It will bankrupt family farms, destroy the benefits diligent producers have earned through performance of contracts with processors, wipe out the value of real estate, require uprooting of children from their schools, and send economic and psychological shockwaves throughout every sector that has been dependent on agriculture in the Klamath Project for over a century,” read the motion, filed by Somach, Simmons & Dunn, based in Sacramento.

The court-ordered injunction, issued March 24, 2017, by Judge William H. Orrick, is in effect until federal agencies complete a new Endangered Species Act biological opinion consultation process not expected to be finished until 2019.

Jerry Enman, board member of both KID and KWUA, believes the case is “speculative” in nature.

“We’ve always doubted the scientific basis for any injunction,” Enman said.

In addition to the required 50,000 acre feet of water, injunction “pulse flows” are said to dislodge aquatic worms that produce a natural salmon parasite that can cause disease in fish.


“Even last year, when it was wet, we almost weren’t able to start irrigation on time because of the possibility a dilution flow might be required, and letting that water out of Klamath Lake would end up affecting ESA requirements for suckers,” said Brad Kirby, president of KWUA.

“This year that situation is much worse, and the reserve for dilution can hurt us even if it doesn’t have to be used.”

A hearing regarding the motion is scheduled for 2 p.m. on April 11 at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Francisco.

The Klamath Basin Area Office of the Bureau of Reclamation was unable to comment on current litigation.




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