Today, US Court of Appeals Upheld Senior Water Rights of Tribes

Dying fish By Hoopa Valley Tribe

Dying fish [Photo provided by Hoopa Valley Tribe]

Press release from the Hoopa Valley Tribe:

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit today upheld the senior water rights of the Hoopa Valley Tribe and other Tribes in an appeal by Baley v. United States. Baley and other Klamath Irrigation District farmers argued that the federal government took their water without compensation in 2001 when water deliveries were delayed in order to satisfy the needs of endangered fish in Upper Klamath Lake and salmon in the Klamath River. The Court reasoned that because the Tribes’ water rights were reserved in the 19th century, they were entitled to be fulfilled first before the farmers were entitled to any water.

“Baley is an important affirmation of our Tribe’s right to the water to sustain our fisheries,” said Hoopa Valley Tribal Chairman Byron Nelson Jr.

In 2001, farmer protests over reserving water for fish requirements led the federal government to change its regulations and devote more water from the Klamath system in 2002, producing the biggest die-off of adult salmon ever recorded. While water flows as regulated by biological opinions of the federal agencies had been modified several times since then, they continued to be controversial. However, a long series of federal court rulings has rose general principles of water law in the western states, affirmed the right of senior water rights holders to first priority in water. The Baley Plaintiffs argued that the long distance between Upper Klamath Lake and the Hoopa Valley and Yurok Reservations insulated the Klamath Project from the Tribes’ reserved water rights. The Court disagreed. The Court also ruled that the Hoopa Valley and Yurok Tribes’ lack of participation in the State of Oregon water adjudication did not take away their entitlement to water in the Klamath River, noting that Oregon could not have determined California rights.



  • YAY!!! Now let’s get those dams torn down!!

  • Wild And Free Forever

    Great news, this also means Humboldt County Tribes can use this case as a precedent to get all the water stolen by the Lake Pillsbury, Van Arsdale Dam diversion which steals over 60 percent of Eel River water and diverts the water to the Russian River for wine grape growers use, there by destroying the Eel River habitat. Tear down those damn dams asap. Let the Eel River flow wild and free. Return the water to its natural course nature and god intended. Stop playing god with out natural rivers and streams.

  • Awesome news

  • Fantastic news!!!

  • It seems amazing and pretty offensive that HAY growers would fight this issue, which is plainly correct. Shame on Baley.

  • You do know any excess water flowing down the Klamath river will be diverted down to central California to the farmers and cities there. The winners will not be the tribes below that diversion. So Oregon loses it’s water to the mega cities and mega farms of California, but hey the tribes won right. What did that cost to whip the good farmers and Ranchers where the water is from anyway

    • Nope. There is no infrastructure in place for such a diversion. They mapped out a series of dams in the 1960s to do that…. it will never happen.

  • Salmon or wine? Didn’t learn the last thousand times when these types of things happen in the end government twist words and policies to taint the water and therefore it’s sad
    Wine areas burned this year but this also reverts water on down Southern California.

    Salmon or wine?

  • Excellent news!


  • Time for the valley to develop the technology for converting ocean water to clean water for their farms. Let our rivers go free!!!

  • and thanks to calpine all that waste water is already used to inject into the fault lines to create steam which is used to make power so can not be recycled for farming

  • wish our Tribe would have protected our water rights. That would protect our wild rice. Our medicine for all people.

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