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Latest: Klamath farmers lose ‘takings’ lawsuit

A judge denies compensation for the 2001 water shut-off to protect salmon runs.


The Klamath River, in southern Oregon and Northern California, once hosted the West Coast’s third-largest salmon run, until dams and irrigation disrupted it. During severe drought in 2001, the feds shut off farmers’ water to save endangered fish and uphold tribal water rights. The farmers sued for $29 million plus interest for the federal “taking” of their water. In 2002, they got to irrigate, but the resulting salmon die-off enraged tribes. Stakeholders eventually negotiated an end to the fighting (“Peace on the Klamath,” HCN, 6/23/08).

In late September, Federal Claims Judge Marian Blank Horn ruled that the government’s actions did not require compensation. While acknowledging the farmers’ hardships, Horn said the water cut-off was forced by senior rights held by the Klamath, Yurok and Hoopa Valley tribes. The decision will help “protect the economies and traditions of tribal and coastal communities that rely on salmon and other fish,” said Todd True, an Earthjustice senior attorney, in a statement.