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House defeats effort to limit farming on Klamath wildlife refuges
http://www.bayarea.com/mld/mercurynews/news/local/6326571.htm

AP, The Mercury News, July 17, 2003
 

For the second year in a row, the House on Thursday defeated an amendment that would have limited irrigated farming on two wildlife refuges in the water-starved Klamath Basin.

The amendment, sponsored by Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., Mike Thompson, D-Calif., and Chris Shays, R-Conn., would have prohibited planting water-intensive crops such as onions, potatoes or alfalfa on new agricultural leases in the Lower Klamath and Tule Lake refuges, located along the Oregon-California border.

The amendment, attached to a spending bill for the Department of Interior, was defeated, 197-228. The 31-vote margin of defeat was nine votes more than the defeat of a similar effort last year by Blumenauer and Thompson.

Dan Keppen, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association, said the votes showed that Congress rejects efforts to punish farmers for the water shortage in the Klamath.

Blumenauer's proposal "makes about as much sense as an urban Portland lawmaker making rules that affect rural family farmers 300 miles away," Keppen said.

While touted as a water conservation measure, the amendment would have resulted in little increased water for the two refuges, Keppen said. Only 25 percent of leaselands can be planted in onions, potatoes and alfalfa - and those crops do not use much more water than grain planted on the remaining leaselands for waterfowl, he said.

Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., who has been a champion of farmers in the Klamath Basin, called it "absolutely galling" that Blumenauer and other lawmakers from outside the area would try to impose their views on Klamath irrigators.

Walden said he was grateful that Oregon Democratic Reps. Peter DeFazio, David Wu and Darlene Hooley all voted against the measure.

"The amendment would have hurt family farmers in the Klamath Basin who have already suffered enough and would have had little, if any, benefit to the refuges," Walden said. "What we need is a comprehensive solution to the problems in the Basin, not a rifle-shot approach."

 

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