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Law
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:
WESTLANDS WATER DIST V HOOPA VALLEY TRIBE (July 13, 2004)

Relevant Links:
Hoopa Valley Tribe - http://www.hoopa-nsn.gov
Wetlands Water District - http://www.westlandswater.org/wwd/default2.asp
Northern California Power Agency - http://www.ncpa.com

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