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Hawkins v. Haaland

ELR Citation: 51 ELR 20044
Nos. 20-5074, (D.C. Cir., 03/19/2021)

The D.C. Circuit affirmed dismissal of a lawsuit concerning reserved water rights in the Klamath River Basin. Ranchers sued to prevent Native American tribes from exercising reserved water rights in the basin that interfered with the ranchers' ability to irrigate their land. The district court dismissed their suit for lack of standing. The ranchers appealed, arguing that a 2013 agreement between the tribes and the federal government unlawfully delegated to the tribes the authority to call upon state officials to implement their senior instream water rights without the government's consent, and that the injuries they suffered because of water cutoffs imposed by the Oregon Water Resources Department to satisfy the tribes' water rights were fairly traceable to the government's delegation of authority and could be redressed by invalidating the agreement and restoring the government's call-making authority. The appellate court found the agreement did not delegate federal authority to the tribes but rather recognized the tribes' preexisting authority to control their water rights under a treaty signed with the United States in 1864, and that the ranchers had failed to show their alleged injuries were fairly traceable to federal government action or inaction or that they would be redressed by striking the agreement. It therefore affirmed dismissal for lack of standing.