Federal judge favors fish over Klamath irrigators

Klamath Falls, Ore. – After more than a month of deliberation, a federal judge has handed down a ruling on how water in the Klamath Basin should be handled this summer.

Judge William Orrick issued his decision late Monday, ruling in favor of endangered fish over Klamath Project irrigators.

Mark Johnson of the Klamath Water Users Association says he’s disappointed.  “He denied out motion for relief, and as of right now, we have to hold 50 thousand acre feet in Upper Klamath Lake.”

Water users had challenged the validity of science calling for increased river flows to protect endangered salmon downstream.

The challenge was denied.

Irrigators still aren’t sure how the ruling will impact the start of irrigation season, or how much water they’ll get.

“It’s all still up in the air.”  Notes Johnson.  “And we’re working really had to try and get people surface water, and some operations are going on now, and we’re still pumping groundwater – but it’s still too early to tell.”

Klamath County Commissioners say this summer’s drought could cost the basin over half a billion dollars.

But in his ruling, the judge stated he was ‘not free to favor economic or other interests over potential harm to endangered species’.

Water users have been meeting with Bureau of Reclamation officials to iron out how the judge’s ruling will impact water supplies to the Klamath Project.

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