Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
Story sound familiar?
Let me tell you a story, and a sad, true tale it is.
In Inyo County, Calif., bound by the Sierra Nevada and the Inyo Range, there is a valley that stretches for about a hundred miles. This is the Owens Valley.
At one end is Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the continental United States. At the other end lies Death Valley, the lowest point in the United States. From the mountains the Owens River carries the melted snow, and, at one time, drained into Owens Lake.
The Owens Valley knew no tremendous growth during the Gold Rush, though some prospectors came when gold was found to the north of Owens Lake in 1865.
A large earthquake in 1872 (probably over 8 on the Richter scale) put the area in the newspaper. On the whole, the valley was a community of small farmers and ranchers.
The Owens River made lowlands into swamps during flood season, but without money for irrigation projects much of the valley didn't have enough water. In 1902 the passage of the National Reclamation Act gave high hopes that the government would help the valley develop its water resources.
About the same time, the city of Los Angeles realized that the Los Angeles River was unable to supply the water that the city needed for growth, so the local business and political leaders organized to do something about it.
In 1904, led by the former mayor Fred Eaton, who had discovered it, Los Angeles leaders began quietly buying up land and water rights in the Owens Valley. Their plan was to construct an aqueduct to take water from the Owens River and bring it to Los Angeles. However, at the same time, the federal Reclamation Service was exploring the possibility of launching a major irrigation project in the Owens Valley. The project would have brought prosperity to the local farmers, and stymied the Los Angeles developers. The federal government dropped its idea in 1906, and President Teddy Roosevelt gave his approval to the aqueduct project by granting right of way on federal land the aqueduct would have to pass through.
Of some interest is the fact that the Reclamation Bureau engineer responsible for making the decisions on the Owens Valley project was one J.B. Lippencot, who was also working for the Los Angeles Water Commission as a consultant.
The aqueduct was completed in 1913 and began bringing water to Los Angeles.
Some of the families who were forced out of the Owens Valley came to Klamath County and settled in Langell Valley.
To them the threat of planting the Cob energy facility near their homes on land designated strictly for agricultural use must seem like déjá vu. The product of that plant will not benefit anyone in Oregon. The jobs that it would create would be too few to make much difference to the economy of the Basin, excepting for the original construction, and the profits will go to the management and stock- holders in Chicago.
It does seem to me that, like Mr. J.B. Lippencot, someone chooses, for whatever reward, to turn a blind eye to his or her duty.
Margaret E. Furber
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