KLAMATH IRRIGATION DISTRICT, ET AL V. U.S. BUREAU OF RECLAMATION, ET AL, No. 20-36009 (9th Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
Various parties appealed the dismissal of their action challenging Reclamation’s current operating procedures, which were adopted in consultation with other relevant federal agencies to maintain specific lake levels and instream flows to comply with the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”) and to safeguard the federal reserved water and fishing rights of the Hoopa Valley and Klamath Tribes (the “Tribes”). The Tribes intervened as of right but then moved to dismiss the action on the ground that they were required parties who could not be joined due to their tribal sovereign immunity
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal, due to a lack of a required party under Fed. R. Civ. P. 19. The panel held that the district court properly recognized that a declaration that Reclamation’s operating procedures were unlawful would imperil the Tribes’ reserved water and fishing rights. The panel affirmed the district court’s conclusion that the Tribes were required parties who could not be joined due to sovereign immunity, and that in equity and good conscience, the action should be dismissed.
The panel disagreed with Plaintiffs’ argument that the Tribes were not required parties to this suit because the Tribes’ interests were adequately represented by Reclamation. Because Reclamation is not an adequate representative of the Tribes, the Tribes are required parties under Rule 19. The court explained that The McCarran Amendment waives the United States’ sovereign immunity in certain suits. 43 U.S.C. Section 666(a). The panel held that even if the McCarran Amendment’s waiver of sovereign immunity extends to tribes as parties, the Amendment does not waive sovereign immunity in every case that implicates water rights.