Crooked River Water Rights

Crooked River Water Rights

Current Status:

Date Filed:
Mar 27, 2024

Case Title:
Upper Crooked River Conservationists and Shotgun Ranch, LLC v. Water Resources Department of the State of Oregon and Water Resources Commission of the State of Oregon

Staff attorney(s):
Andrew Missel


WaterWatch of Oregon

To Protect:

Fish in the Lower Crooked River


Case Information:

March 27, 2024 — Representing WaterWatch of Oregon, Advocates for the West filed a motion to intervene in a state court water rights case to defend the Oregon Water Resources Department’s decision to grant a permit to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) allowing the release of water from Prineville Reservoir to support fish in the lower Crooked River.

The Crooked River is one of Oregon’s crown jewels, winding through Smith Rock State Park and miles of wilderness canyons, and providing habitat for prized redband trout and imperiled steelhead.

Area ranchers and irrigators mounted a legal challenge that would undermine the implementation of the Crooked River Act and delay legal protections for flows to protect fish in a 72-mile stretch of the Crooked River between Prineville Reservoir and Lake Billy Chinook. A key provision of the Crooked River Act directs BOR to store, release, and use water for downstream fish and wildlife “in accordance with Oregon state water law.”

Advocates for the West is intervening on the side of the State of Oregon, arguing that the permit granted by Oregon Water Resources Department is consistent with Oregon water law and necessary to carry out the Crooked River Act.