The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit denied an appeal by farmers and ranchers represented in what’s commonly known as the ‘Takings’ case.
The Federal Circuit Court Judge Alvin A. Schall authored the opinion issued on Thursday that upheld the 2017 opinion delivered by Federal Claims Court Judge Marion Blank Horn.
“We therefore see no error in the court’s holding that Bureau of Reclamation’s action in temporarily halting deliveries of Klamath Project water in 2001 did not constitute a taking of appellants’ property,” the opinion stated, in a news release from Klamath Water Users Association in Klamath Falls.
The appeal cost was tagged at about $75,000, according to a previous story published by H&N.
If the U.S. government had approved the appeal, farmers and ranchers would have been compensated for up to $28 million for the taking of water, the H&N reported in a previous story.
“It was never about the money,” said Gary Wright, former president of the Klamath Water Users Association, in a news release. “It has always been about the future of our families and our community.”
Paul Simmons, executive director of Klamath Water Users Association, said that the lower court had acknowledged that many landowners within the Klamath Project have a property interest in the water that is protected by the Fifth Amendment. Simmons also said a lower court recognized the the serious nature of the impacts to the agricultural community from events in 2001.
Simmons said the the Appellate Court upheld the lower court’s holding for the following reasons that Reclamation’s actions were not a “taking” due to the following: Three tribes in the Basin – Klamath, Yurok, and Hoopa – have senior, instream water rights for fisheries that must be for at least as much water as is required by the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The Appellate Court found that Reclamation’s actions to comply with the ESA and to protect tribal water resources were “one and the same.”
Nathan Ratliff, legal counsel in Klamath Falls coordinating efforts on the case, laid out concerns with the outcome in a news release.
“It is extremely disappointing,” Ratliff said. “There are fundamental principles of western water law and water rights adjudication and administration that we just do not believe sunk in with the court. And the idea that federal agencies can make administrative determinations of water rights that bind some people and not others raises serious due process questions.”
The next step after denial of appeal would be for the case to go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Simmons said the water users who filed the case will make any decisions about whether to appeal the denial.
“The alternatives for any further review consist of filing a petition for reconsideration with the same court or asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision,” Simmons said in a news release. “The plaintiffs will no doubt evaluate the decision more carefully and consider their options.”
Marzulla Law, based in Washington, D.C., have lead legal counsel efforts on the case for many years.