A long-running water-rights lawsuit over the Klamath River ends

Court upholds upstream river rights of the Klamath, Yurok and Hoopa Valley tribes.


Yurok fishermen on the Klamath River.
Linda Tanner/CC via Flickr
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The Yurok Tribe of California declared
rights of personhood for the Klamath River last summer. The tribal council’s resolution means that if the river is harmed, a case can be made in Yurok tribal court to remedy the problem. It comes at the end of another difficult season for the Klamath, with low water flows, high disease rates in salmon and canceled fishing seasons (“The Klamath River now has the legal rights of a person,” HCN, 9/24/19).

On Nov. 14, a long-running water-rights lawsuit titled Baley v. United States was settled in favor of the U.S. According to MyBasin.com, the appellate court denied compensation to the farmers and ranchers who sued after the U.S. set aside irrigation water for threatened and endangered species, citing the Endangered Species Act. This ruling
upheld a lower court’s decision affirming the senior rights of the Klamath, Yurok and Hoopa Valley tribes, who have upstream rights to water fisheries.

Kalen Goodluck is an editorial fellow at High Country News. Email him at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor.

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