Washington Journal of Environmental Law & Policy


In order to protect Indian property rights to water and fish that Indians rely on for subsistence and moderate income, the Interior Department Solicitor has construed federal statutes and case law to conclude that the Department must restrict irrigation in the Klamath River Basin of Oregon and Northern California. Draft legislation, prescribed by the February 18, 2010 Klamath River Hydroelectric Agreement and the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, would release the United States from its trust duty to protect the rights of Indian tribes in the Klamath River Basin. The agreements will also prolong the Clean Water Act Section 401 application process to prevent the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission from issuing a properly-conditioned license for dams in the Klamath River that will protect the passage of vital fish populations. This article argues that the agreements prioritize the water rights of non-Indian irrigation districts and utility customers over first-in-time Indian water and fishing rights.

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