(Salem, OR) – On February 24, 2021, the Klamath County Circuit Court issued an opinion letter that addresses legal issues pending in the Klamath adjudication regarding the quantification of the Klamath Tribes’ determined claims for hunting, fishing, and gathering as provided in the Amended and Corrected Findings of Fact and Order of Determination (ACFFOD). The Court’s opinion letter must be reduced to an order before it may take effect. The Department anticipates that an order may provide clarification regarding the status of the Tribes’ determined claims and the status of water regulation pending final actions on the remaining matters before the Court. Unless or until the Court orders otherwise, the Department is required to regulate water in accordance with the determinations made in the ACFFOD.

The Department expects this year to be a difficult year for water users due to dry conditions throughout the basin. In Oregon, senior water right holders may call for the watermaster to regulate junior users off when there is not enough water to satisfy a senior user’s right to water. On March 1, the Klamath Tribes made a call for water to satisfy their instream determined claims which, as provided in the ACFFOD, are the most senior rights in the Klamath Basin. The watermaster has investigated and confirmed that the Tribes’ instream determined claims for streamflow values in the Williamson and Sprague River basins are not being met. Accordingly, the watermaster expects to begin issuing regulation orders next week requiring the shut off of junior water users in the Upper Klamath Basin on the Williamson and Sprague river systems. The instream determined claims for the Wood River system are currently satisfied.

Background: Under Oregon statutes, while the Department’s determination of claims in a general stream adjudication is before the circuit court, the agency is required to regulate in accordance with the Department’s determination. For the Klamath Basin Adjudication, the findings of fact and order of determination (FFOD) was submitted to the Klamath County Circuit Court in 2013, and the amended and corrected findings of fact and order of determination (ACFFOD) was submitted in 2014. Regulation of water consistent with the priority date of determined claims as provided in the FFOD and the ACFFOD has been occurring since 2013.

The Oregon Water Resources Department is the state agency charged with allocating and distributing water in Oregon. The Klamath Basin Watermaster office can be reached at 541-883-4182. More information on the current status of regulation in the Klamath Basin can be found at: https://www.oregon.gov/owrd/programs/regulation/KlamathRegulation/Pages/default.aspx.