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Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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http://www.sierratimes.com/03/07/11/article_jj.htm
Water 2025: The Coming War on the Western Frontier
Report by J.J. Johnson, Sierra Times
 
Las Vegas, Nevada - After about a 20 minute presentation by a Bush administration official in a regional conference, the overall message is clear: If western states do not come up with a way to increase the water supply fast, let's put it this way:

...Terrorists won't have to do a thing - except watch the Second Chapter of the War Between the States unfold - literally.

This was the message by Bennett Raley, U.S. Department of Interior's Assistant Secretary for Water and Science at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas on Wednesday. Raley's introduction address to the 4 hour conference and panel discussion included the word "Klamath" no less than 9 times. The title of the conference: "Water 2025: Preventing Crises and Conflict in the West" - just in case you didn't take the "Second Civil War" phrase seriously.

On April 6, 2001, flawed science forced the federal shut off of over 100,000 acre-feet daily irrigation water to over 1400 farms in the Upper Klamath Basin south of Klamath Falls, Oregon ' to save the sucker fish and coho salmon'. The resultant anger between ranchers, farmers and activists and federal policy led to armed federal agents being placed at the Klamath headgates in a seemingly endless standoff with residents, and physical conflict was avoided only by God's grace. Only the September 11 attacks produced a pause in the standoff.

The U.S. Department of Interior clearly does not want this to happen again. But they fear it will; possibly in cities much larger than Klamath Falls by the year 2025.

"After it was over, Secretary [Gail] Norton sat us all down in a meeting and asked, "Where will the next Klamath be?", said Raley. He repeatedly emphasized that "we don't want another Klamath". He said the water supply is in crisis mode even for normal years. He pointed to Albuquerque, recently stung by a federal ruling to divert water flow for a 'silvery minnow'. According to Raley, New Mexico's largest city is already in 'crisis mode'.

"Even if we had 200% of regular water flow over the next year, we would still be in a crisis mode. The white map of the American west was marked with various degrees colors; as if showing the location for future war fronts. The high-risk areas ("substantial, to highly likely") for potential conflict included San Francisco, Sacramento, Fresno, Las Vegas, Santa Fe, Salt Lake City, Denver, Houston, and the Phoenix-Tucson as well as Los Angeles-San Diego corridors.

That's over 40 million people. Imagine any of those places - becoming the next Klamath Falls.

Raley said long term solutions were needed. "If we don't do something now, we will face these crises by 2025," he said. " Today, the challenge to meet the water supply needs and avoid conflict will take on a national importance", he said.

Critical Water Supple Areas by 2025
 

Source:U.S. Department of Interior

The regional conferences started in Denver, kicked off by the Secretary herself. Looking at the map, they are being held in the potential critical cities. According to the report, the Southwest is exploding in growth, enhanced by migration from the Far East and especially Mexico and Central America. That explains the increase in demand.

On the supply side - the federal government, from the other comments for panel members, are aware that battle lines are being drawn between water needs for humans and agriculture, against water needs to protect endangered species.

Federal government officials are seeking state input (and solutions) to the problem. At the Las Vegas Conference, Nevada representatives were already taking verbal shots at California. Richard Bunker, Colorado River Commissioner of Nevada spoke up for the rural area in a manner that reminded some to the recent favorable Wayne Hage Vs U.S. ruling. "When water is taken from rural counties, rural counties should be well compensated", Bunker said. "Interim surplus is the solution." Nevada has been strategically storing water reserves in aquifers from the Colorado river. But as supplies get shorter and animals have to be protected, who knows how long that will last.

And by the way, the Mojave Indian Tribe says they get 4% of Nevada's water - and they plan on using every drop. Meaning other states in the West will have to remember their tribes as well.

Solutions ranged from desalination to fixing aging controls, and conservation. Sure, we could all talk about massive pipeline projects to divert waters from other areas, but California and Nevada state governments are teetering on insolvency. Other western states aren't far behind. Between education and road projects, no one thought of investing in a constant supply of a liquid much more necessary for life than oil. Still, Washington insists states handle the problem among themselves, as they have done since 1866.

Without water, even education will take a back seat to the impending crisis.

Westerners who have suffered already from the Water Wars should know full well that no water conference is possible without the environmentalist, the one that thinks federal intervention is a good thing. After all, it's been their favorite weapon. Mike Ford, of the Conservation Fund, conceded that it has been a very effective tool for their efforts at times. Still, he knew he was in hostile territory. "Litigation, lawsuits are not the answer," said Ford. He gave forewarning that some of his views might not sit well with other environmental organizations. "Everyone must be willing to give turf", he said. Ford agrees there should be more continued dialogue.

Giving turf. Fact is, that's what it will boil down to - who's going to 'give turf'. Seems that was the problem in Klamath - both sides refused to give that turf which led to a 15,000+ person rally, Congressional hearings, civil disobedience, and threats of more. That is what it took for those rightfully deemed to use the water to get their water back.

The greens have their war chest and their successes in the courts, but dwindling water sources threatens much of their political power base (major cities), as well as our food supply over the next two decades. When their fellow greens begin to demand what water sources are left should go to those who need it most - humans, else there may be few humans around to even save any other species. Klamath taught both the government and the environmentalists a lesson that they would rather not see repeated:

Despite government rules and questionable science, man cannot survive without water. And history has shown that desperate times make desperate people do desperate things.

To be continued...

 

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