KLAMATH BASIN ADJUDICATION INFORMATION SHEET
June 4, 2013
The Klamath Basin Adjudication was initiated in 1975 for the purpose of adjudicating pre-1909 water rights in the Klamath Basin. In March 2013, the adjudicator, Oregon Water Resources Department, (OWRD) issued its Findings of Fact and Final Order of Determination (FOD). In the next phase of the adjudication, the Klamath County Circuit Court will hear any objections to the FOD and then issue a water rights decree.
Klamath Basin Water Regulation
OWRD will now regulate the Klamath Basin according to the FOD. This means that successful water right claimants who hold pre-1909 priority dates will be able to request the regulation of junior water right holders for the first time. As a result, some water right holders who have had access to water for over 100 years will now be subject to regulation.
Impacts on the Rogue Valley
Why does this matter to residents of the Rogue Valley? Three irrigation districts (Talent, Medford, and Rogue River Valley) (collectively, the Districts) supply irrigation, municipal and industrial water to over 35,000 acres in the Rogue Basin. The Districts depend in part on a 1910 water right to store and divert water from Fourmile Lake in the Klamath Basin over to the Rogue Basin. The use of that water right is now in jeopardy because of several very large claims by the federal government on behalf of the National Forest Service, the Klamath Tribes and the Bureau of Reclamation.
First in Time Is First in Right
How is this possible? Oregon follows the “prior appropriation” doctrine of water use, like most western states. When there is not enough water to satisfy all the water rights, water users with senior priority dates will receive water, while water users with relatively junior rights will not. Simply stated, water users who are “first in time” are “first in right.” There are many water rights junior to the Districts’ Fourmile Lake right that should be curtailed first. Nonetheless, in many years there is simply not enough water to go around in the Klamath Basin.
The Districts are represented by legal counsel as they participate in the Klamath Adjudication process. The Districts are engaged in the court proceedings and are prepared to defend the Fourmile Lake water right to the fullest extent possible.
Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement
It is important to note that the Klamath Adjudication and the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) are two very different things. The KBRA hinges on Klamath River dam removal (among other things), and those dams have nothing to do with the Districts’ diversion or transportation of water to the Rogue Basin. The Districts were approached by both the proponents and opponents of the KBRA at one time or another to take a position on the KBRA. However, the Districts determined the KBRA was a local issue in the Klamath Basin rather than a Rogue Basin issue, and chose to remain neutral with respect to the KBRA.
This information sheet has been prepared by the Rogue Basin Water Users Council, Inc. (RBWUC), which is an entity formed to handle issues and events that are common to Medford, Rogue River Valley and Talent Irrigation Districts.
WATER USERS COUNCIL, INC.
December 1, 2013
The Rogue Basin Water Users Council, Inc. exists to handle issues and events that are common to the three local Irrigation Districts which consist of Medford, Rogue River Valley and Talent. The Klamath Adjudication process is the process that will “firm-up” the water rights and water use in the Klamath Basin. The Klamath Adjudication has been on-going for some 30+ years.
The Klamath Adjudication and Klamath Basic Restoration Agreements (KBRA) are two very different things. The Districts have been working on, and are fully engaged in the Klamath Adjudication process, which is a water right regulation and quantification issue.
The KBRA (among other things) hinged on Klamath River Main-stem dam removal. The Klamath dams have nothing to do with the Districts’ diversion or transportation of water to the Rogue Basin. The Districts were approached by both the proponents and opponents of the KBRA at one time or another to take a position on the KBRA. However, the Districts determined the KBRA was a local issue in the Klamath Basin rather than a Rogue Basin Issue, and chose to remain neutral with respect to the KBRA.
The Klamath Adjudication process has recently come to the point that the State of Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD) is confident that it can regulate water rights in the Klamath watershed to the priority dates that were accepted in the Adjudication. While there are many unknowns at this time, both legal and physical, the Final Order of Determination (FOD) has been released and OWRD will now have the authority to “regulate” water rights to that Order.
A large portion of the Districts water supply comes from stream flow diversions and storage reservoirs that are within the Klamath drainage. Some of the priority dates that have been allowed could have a negative effect on our water supply. One concern is that some Tribal water rights have been granted a water right priority date of “Time Immemorial” which is basically a priority date that is senior in right, to any other within that river basin. The Districts are looking into how it can affect their water supply.
There are several water rights that are senior to the Districts water rights but there are hundreds of water rights that are junior to the Districts rights that should be regulated prior to the Districts. There is going to be a lot of activity on the Districts part to work on answers to these very complex questions.
The Districts take this process as a very real threat to their water supplies, knowing that each District could potentially be affected, albeit to varying degrees. The Districts have been and are actively involved in the process, including but not limited to working with the Oregon Water Resources Department, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (through legal counsel) as well as outside consultants, to assure the Districts follow every remedy that is available to keep an uninterrupted supply of water to the Rogue Basin.