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Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.

Looking back at the 2001 water crisis

Dan Keppen
      Klamath Falls water issues consultant Dan Keppen was working for the Bureau of Reclamation in Sacramento, Calif., as special assistant to the regional director during summer 2001. 

    “I don't think it's over,” he said of the water crisis, “although there's been a lot of progress made. We have an administration that's very in tune. 

    “I believe they are trying to solve this thing looking at the entire watershed. But the fact remains we have high lake level requirements and high flow requirements.” 

    Those give first priority to wildlife covered by the Endangered Species Act, including Klamath River’s coho salmon and Upper Klamath Lake’s suckers. 

    “That just turns the whole purpose of the (Klamath Irrigation) Project on its head,” Keppen said.

   Evidence that another shutdown could happen came in 2003, he added. Federal officials were set to cut off irrigation water as of June 26, but changed their minds at the last moment. 

    That possible shutoff loomed because the lake had dropped one-tenth of a foot below the prescribed level, Keppen said.

   “I can't say anybody has confidence that a shutdown couldn’t occur in the middle of the summer,” he said.

   However, an encouraging sign came after the Geary Dike breach. The lake level fell 3 inches, but U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials decided not to withhold water from irrigators.

“I appreciate that kind of flexibility,” Keppen said.

— Steve Kadel
Greg Addington
Klamath Water Users Association Executive Director Greg Addington was a Medford resident in 2001. He served as the Oregon Farm Bureau’s regional manager then. 

    His office provided help to water users in the region in a variety of ways. Addington helped mobilize support for Basin farmers by going from county to county to explain how the water crisis affected irrigators.

    “There's a great camaraderie between rural folks and the agricultural community,” he said. 

    Addington’s efforts resulted in several buses of farmers and other supporters from outside Klamath County coming here to stand with their industry cohorts during the water shutoff. 

    “The frustrating things is it could happen again,” he said of a water shutoff. “From a biological opinion standpoint the mechanisms are still there.” 

    — Steve Kadel 



Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:15 AM  Pacific

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