After 38 Years of Study, Oregon Backs Tribes’ Water Rights In The Klamath Basin

Mar 8, 2013

For the first time, the state of Oregon Thursday recognized that the Klamath tribes hold a senior claim to water in Klamath Lake and several of its tributaries. Amelia Templeton reports, it took the state almost forty years to sort through water rights in the high desert basin and issue an order.

In Oregon, like most western states, the person with the oldest right gets first dibs on water for irrigation and other uses. At least in theory.

Bill Ganong is an attorney who’s been working on the Klamath water adjudication since he graduated from law school in 1978. He says in practice...

Ganong: “The person who first gets the straw in the river at the top of the river gets all their water. And then the next straw down the river gets whatever is left, till you get to the end of the river.”

The state’s new order will allow downstream water users, like the Klamath tribes, to enforce their senior rights. The Tribes want more water left in Klamath Lake to protect endangered C’wamm, or suckerfish.

Similar water rights adjudications are taking place for the Yakima River in Washington and the Snake River in Idaho.

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