Advertise:   712.224.5420

Supreme Court rejects suit over water usage

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that water users in California who are fighting tribes cannot sue the federal government to enforce a water contract.

In a unanimous decision, the court rebuffed users of the Westlands Water District. The users had sued the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for reducing the amount of water they were supposed to get under a federal contract.

But Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the contract was with the district, not the individual users. He said that federal law did not waive the federal government's sovereign immunity for suits by alleged "third-party beneficiaries."

Separately, the Westlands Water District sued the government for reducing its water and returning flows to the Trinity River. But the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the challenge, citing "staggering" scientific evidence to support higher flows.

The restoration of flows benefits the Hoopa Valley Tribe and the Yurok Tribe, who have treaty rights on the river.

Get the Story:
Court rules against farmers in water case (AP 6/24)

Decision in Orff v. US:
Syllabus | Opinion [Thomas]

Court Decision:

Relevant Links:
Hoopa Valley Tribe -
Wetlands Water District -
Northern California Power Agency -

Related Stories:
Water finally being restored to the Trinity River (05/16)
California tribe wins round in testy water fight (01/24)
Judge dismisses lawsuit over Klamath fishkill (01/21)
Appeals court restores flows to Trinity River (07/14)
Appeals court orders release of water for tribe (04/27)
Hoopa Valley Tribe critical of DOI water offer (3/3)
Calif. tribe says water proposal won't help fish (01/23)
Calif. tribe, U.S. reject offer to setter water suit (10/21)
Calif. tribe criticizes water settlement offer (10/17)
Water users offer settlement to Calif. tribe (10/15)
Tribes would receive $20M in Klamath aid (10/25)
Tribes protest Klamath water cut-off (10/14)
Water woes affect Calif. tribes (8/26)
Calif. tribes still waiting for water (8/22)
Interior sued over river plan (1/10)
Plan would help restore salmon to river (12/20)