Oregon agrees Klamath Tribes have Basin’s oldest water rights

Upper Klamath Lake


GRANTS PASS, Ore. — The Klamath Tribes’ claim to have the oldest water rights in the upper Klamath Basin has been backed by the state of Oregon.

Those findings were filed Thursday and if they are affirmed by a Klamath County Circuit Court judge, it would give the tribes a new dominant position in the longstanding battles over sharing scarce water between fish and farms in the Upper Klamath Basin.

The oldest water rights have the first claim to water, and Oregon Water Resources found that the tribes’ claim on Upper Klamath Lake and its tributaries dates back further than records are kept.

The lake is the primary reservoir for a federal irrigation project serving 1,400 farms covering 200,000 acres.

Anticipating this outcome, the farmers on the project made an agreement with the tribes to provide them water.