Judge Orrick’s Ruling in Klamath Tribes v United States Bureau of Reclamation, et al
On Wednesday, July 25th, Judge William H. Orrick ruled on Klamath Tribes v United States Bureau of Reclamation, et al. In his ruling, he denied the preliminary injunction the Klamath Tribes were requesting on Upper Klamath Lake. He also granted a motion to move the case from his courtroom in San Francisco to Oregon, though denied the dismissal of the case based on venue.
To see what was written, you can read Judge Orrick’s 29 page decision. We also encourage you to watch the video of the court proceedings for The Klamath Tribes v. United States Bureau of Reclamation et al. It gives you background into the Tribes, the defendants and the intervenors’ arguments which helps make sense of Judge Orrick’s ruling.
While the ruling appears to be favorable to the defendants and the intervenors, he implores all parties to find a solution for protecting the c’waam and Koptu. We recommend everyone who is interested solving this problem, we recommend reading his ruling. We have also pulled some quotes from the first page of the ruling which we feel sums up his view.
Regarding the motion for change of venue:
“While venue may be proper in the Northern District of California, it is more appropriate in
the United States District Court for the District of Oregon: the Klamath Tribes are headquartered there, the sucker fish are there, the Upper Klamath Lake is there, and the Bureau and FWS haveoffices there. Only NMFS has an office in the Northern District, and it may not be long for this case given problems with Count III. I will let the transferee court address the pleadings as it will.”
Regarding fish health and potential impacts:
“There is reason for all parties to give urgent focus to the health of the sucker fish. The federal defendants represent that this is already happening, and I encourage the engaged scientists for all parties to work collaboratively and expeditiously to protect the sucker fish. The Klamath Irrigation Project is complex, and the endangered species within it are of paramount importance under the Endangered Species Act. That said, while this is a close case, the Klamath Tribes have not convinced me on this record that they are likely to prevail on the merits or that the sucker fish will suffer irreparable harm if I do not grant the relief the Klamath Tribes seek. There is substantial disagreement whether the lake elevation level is causing injury to the sucker fish, but there is no doubt that granting a mandatory injunction that cuts off water to the Klamath Irrigation District will cause substantial harm to others that depend on it, including wildlife refuges, farmers and ranchers. The motion for preliminary injunction is DENIED.”
This case is not over, and there is no date set for when it will be tried in the United States District Court for the District of Oregon. That also doesn’t mean we can rest on our laurels and hope for a better outcome. For the long-term benefit of all of our Klamath Basin communities, we need work on a long-term solution that helps the fish. As you can see in Judge Orrick’s comments, “There is a reason for all parties to give urgent focus to the health of the sucker fish.”
We need to start now.