‘Takings’ trial on irrigation shutoff now underway

Klamath Falls, Ore. – The 2001 shutoff of water to Klamath Project irrigators is the focus of a trial now underway in federal court in Washington, D.C. – and the outcome could extend beyond the Klamath Basin.

Farmers and ranchers claim the shutoff of water was a violation of their Fifth Amendment rights.

“It’s a trial that will determine basically, the outcome of 2001.”  Explains Scott White, Executive Director of the Klamath Water Users Association.  “Whether it was a ‘takings’ of their water rights, or not.”

The government ruled at the time that sucker fish upstream, and salmon downstream had water priority under the Endangered Species Act, or ‘E.S.A.’

“It was determined that there was not enough water in the system to satisfy both the biological, or the species, and the Klamath Project irrigators.”  Notes White.

The shutoff sparked a summer of protest at the headgates to the ‘A’ canal in Klamath Falls.

Irrigators are seeking about 30 million dollars in damages.

But, White adds that a favorable ruling could have even bigger impacts.  “This really would force the federal government to consider operations when it comes to shorting project irrigators.”

The ‘Bucket Brigade’ protest focused national attention on Klamath Falls in 2001.

And Scott White believes the ‘takings’ trial is just as important.  “I think everybody, if they’re not, they should be watching this because it really could have an impact on, not only operations for the Klamath Project, but for all the other Reclamation projects out there that deal with endangered species.”

The headgates to the ‘A’ canal have since been replaced, the but battle over water use in the Klamath Basin still remains.

Over two dozen Klamath Project irrigators, and 5 former presidents of the Klamath Water Users Association are in Washington D.C. to testify at the trial, which is expected to last between two to three weeks.

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