Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
The year the water shut off
Herald and News 11/5/06
Bureau of Reclamation officials welded gates shut on July 3, but their work lasted only minutes. More than 100 people formed a human shield to block protesters from view as they opened the gates again with a torch.
“It was a very emotional time for people on all sides of the issue,” Klamath County sheriff Tim Evinger said. He likened his role to a referee in a tense sports event.
He and other local law enforcement personnel were instructed by federal officials not to interfere in the vandalism.
Fortunately, protesters kept their activities from becoming violent.
It was the year that defined Klamath Basin water issues.
Five summers ago, during the driest period since 1924, local irrigators’ need for water collided with federal mandates to protect endangered and threatened fish species.
With water shut off to irrigation canals, protesters descended on the head gates of A Canal with chain saw and torch to cut open the head gates.
It was the harshest reaction from the farming industry, for whom frustration had been mounting for months. In June 2001, pay raises for county officials were scrapped to help local farmers hurt by the water crisis. More than 1,500 people attended hearings held by the House Committee on Resources.
But it was the opening of didn’t cross a line that would provoke police response.
Still, the summer caused wounds — some of which are not yet healed.
Now a new spirit of collaboration has been spawned by this year’s virtual shutdown of commercial salmon seasons on the Southern Oregon and Northern Oregon coast. Farmers and ranchers from the Klamath Basin helped raised money to help financially struggling fishermen.
Both camps traveled to visit the other industry on its home turf, too. The most recent such get-together was at the Klamath Basin Potato Festival in Merrill, where fishermen and farmers rode on the same float.
Challenges remain, but those affected have come
a long way from the summer of chain saw and torch.
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:15 AM Pacific
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