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United States v. Braren

ELR Citation: 33 ELR 20243
Nos. Nos. 02-35441, -35446, (9th Cir., 07/21/2003)

The court dismisses on ripeness grounds U.S. and Native American tribes' request to clarify the nature and scope of tribal water rights in Oregon’s Klamath Basin and to assess the water rights standard set forth in a state administrative adjudication. Prior litigation in this dispute established that the federal court would announce the water rights standard and that Oregon would then apply and quantify it. The state issued a preliminary administrative assessment, but it has not yet been finalized. The United States and the tribes filed the instant action, and the district court announced a two-step method of establishing tribal water rights. The court holds, however, that the district court lacked jurisdiction. The constitutional test for ripeness is satisfied here because the state adopted a standard that allegedly conflicts with the tribes’ water rights as set forth by the federal courts. Nevertheless, further factual development is needed to establish what standard Oregon will actually apply in adjudicating the numerous competing water claims at issue. Moreover, the agency action involved is nowhere near final, and there is no hardship for the United States and the tribes to wait for additional factual development.

Counsel for Appellee
Andrew C. Mergen
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000

Counsel for Appellants
Jerome C. Muys
Muys & Associates
1575 I St. NW, Washington DC 20005
(202) 737-5205