Scott Learn, The Oregonian June 11, 2013
The Klamath Tribes and the federal government called their water rights in southern Oregon’s Klamath Basin for the first time Monday, likely cutting off irrigation water to hundreds of cattle ranchers and farmers in the upper basin this summer.
The historic calls come after Oregon set water rights priorities earlier this year in the basin, home to one of the nation’s most persistent water wars. Drought has cut water flows in upper basin rivers to 40 percent of normal.
“This is a devastating day,” said Becky Hyde, a longtime cattle rancher in the upper basin’s Sprague River Valley. “This is such a core piece of our economy. It’s not like we can lean back on tourism and things can be OK.”
The Klamath Tribes’ water rights apply to flows in Upper Klamath Lake tributaries, including the Sprague, Williamson and Wood rivers that run through the tribes’ former reservation.
In March, after 38 years of work, the state found that the tribes’ water rights dated to “time immemorial,” making them by far the most senior. That means the tribes will get water to protect fish in traditional fishing grounds, including two species of suckers on the endangered species list.
Farmers irrigating through the federal government’s 1905 Klamath Reclamation Project, covering roughly 200,000 acres that draw from the lake, will also get water, though they’ll face restrictions, too.
But “off-project” irrigators on about 150,000 acres above the lake generally have junior water rights to reclamation-project irrigators. They’ll have to tap wells if they can or see their water supplies reduced or shut off.
Read the rest of the article here.
Montanans have an opportunity to stand together before this happens to them
While this Oregonian story is not specific to the Flathead Compact, it’s related because it’s helpful in understanding that people around the country are fighting the same battle as we are. Controlling the water means controlling the people. Where they live, what they eat, the value of their property, their livelihood, and what they can do with their property.
Montanans have the opportunity to stand firm against the federal government’s attempt to do the same with our water in this Flathead Compact. And for those of you who think it can’t happen here, a realtor friend and a former state senator just submitted the following remarks found on a newly issued surface water right in Sanders County off the Flathead Reservation:
“THIS RIGHT IS SUBJECT TO ALL PRIOR INDIAN RESERVED WATER RIGHTS OF THE CONFEDERATED SALISH AND KOOTENAI TRIBES IN THE SOURCE OF SUPPLY. IT IS THE TRIBE’S POSITION THAT THE EXERCISE OF JUNIOR WATER RIGHTS EITHER WITHIN OR OUTSIDE OF THE EXTERIOR BOUNDARIES OF THE FLATHEAD INDIAN RESERVATION MAY AFFECT THE RESERVED WATER RIGHTS OF THE TRIBE WITHIN THE EXTERIOR BOUNDARIES OF THE RESERVATION. IT IS THE TRIBE’S POSITION THAT ECONOMIC INVESTMENTS MADE IN RELIANCE UPON THIS RIGHT DO NOT CREATE IN THE APPROPRIATOR ANY EQUITY OR VESTED RIGHT AGAINST THE TRIBES. THE APPROPRIATOR IS HEREBY NOTIFIED THAT ANY FINANCIAL OUTLAY OR WORK INVESTED IN A PROJECT PURSUANT TO THIS RIGHT IS AT THE APPROPRIATOR’S RISK. THE ISSUANCE OF THIS RIGHT DOES NOT REDUCE THE APPROPRIATOR’S LIABILITY FOR DAMAGE CAUSED BY THE EXERCISE OF THE RIGHT” (is this also the state of Montana’s “position”?).
Can the wording on this water right make western Montana’s situation any clearer? With all the coercive threats the tribal attorneys and leadership have made concerning this compact, is it any stretch of the imagination to believe that they will aggressively defend the massive amounts of time immemorial water rights they expect to receive in this compact? What chain of events would that likely set off for all of western Montana?
Is it at all possible that the negotiating parties assumed the proposed compact was a foregone conclusion and that the implementation of this dead compact might already be in the works?
WHO WILL BENEFIT FROM ALL THIS?
Montanans must stand together on this compact before they find themselves in the same shoes as these Klamath irrigators and the San Joachin irrigators.
Contact us to get involved today.