By Will Houston, Eureka Times-Standard
San Francisco >> A federal judge heard arguments from attorneys representing Klamath Basin tribes, irrigators and government agencies on Wednesday in a case that is challenging the need for dam water releases meant to protect threatened fish species on the Klamath River from deadly parasitic outbreaks like those that occurred in 2014 and 2015.
The same judge that ordered two federal agencies to make the yearly dam water releases in 2017 — Judge William H. Orrick — also presided over Wednesday afternoon’s hearing at the U.S. District Court of Northern California.
Yurok Tribe General Counsel Amy Cordalis told the Times-Standard after the hearing she is hesitant to be optimistic, but said she was encouraged that Orrick affirmed the best available science supported that dam releases work to prevent the spread of fish disease.
“I am hopeful that his interpretation of what the law requires is consistent with ours, which means providing water for fish,” Cordalis said.
“The Hoopa Valley Tribe will take all necessary steps to protect these fish, the lifeblood of our Tribe,” Hoopa Valley Tribe Chairman Ryan Jackson said in a statement Wednesday evening.
In an interview with Klamath Falls News outside the courthouse on Wednesday afternoon, the Klamath Water Users Association Executive Director Scott White said he thought their and the other irrigators’ case was pretty compelling, but said they will have to wait for Orrick’s final decision.