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Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Klamath water issues, meth bill update, drug cartel action
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Legislative Update June 27, 2013


A Message From Representative Whitsett

I would like to discuss the topic of Klamath County water issues.
A combination of actions taken by the Oregon Water Resources Department has resulted in denying irrigation water to much of the ranching and farming community in the Upper Klamath River Basin.
Make no mistake, the severity of the current meteorological drought would make meeting all Upper Basin irrigations needs difficult at best.
The farming and ranching communities have faced drought before but have always been able to work together to grow enough livestock and crops to survive until precipitation returned.
A series of actions taken, and not taken, by the Oregon Water Resources Department has completely changed the playing field.
Those Department decisions will result in denial of all irrigation water delivery for a large segment of the farming and ranching community and significantly curtailed water deliveries to virtually all agricultural interests in the Upper Klamath River Basin.
First, the Department’s final determination in the Klamath River Adjudication was inexplicably contradictory.
To begin with, they rightfully agreed with previous Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rulings and determined the Klamath Tribes own the highest priority water right dated time immemorial.
But they then incomprehensibly totally ignored the rest of that Ninth Circuit Court decision.
That further Ninth Circuit ruling limited the amount of Tribal water to the amount of water that was being used for a moderate living standard by the Tribes at the time the reservation was sold to the federal government.
In complete contradiction to that ruling, the Department determined that the Tribes were entitled to virtually all of the water in most of the tributaries to Upper Klamath Lake for the purpose of hunting, fishing and gathering, thus overturning the Ninth Circuit Court’s ruling.
The Department has failed to challenge the federal  Biological Opinions that has reallocated most of the water stored in Upper Klamath Lake to allegedly endangered species.
That reallocation has been carried out for years without a water right.
The Department has failed to challenge the state of California’s long standing practice of mining water from Oregon aquifers.
They deny Oregon irrigators access to groundwater while allowing their neighbors across the state line to pump water out from under Oregon land.
Moreover, they have delayed issuing many certificates for irrigation wells for at least the past four years.
Meanwhile, the Department participated in a groundwater study that determined that the regional aquifer discharges in part into the Scenic Klamath River.
Using the result of that study, the Department now plans to deny those delayed certificates and all new groundwater appropriations allegedly because they might reduce flows in that allegedly scenic river.
Further, the Department has made clear that they may revoke the certificates of many existing irrigation wells for the same specious reasons.
Look who is supporting the Oregon Water Resources Department. You will not find agricultural, forestry, or natural resources economic entities supporting the Department’s budget. The groups include:


  • 1000 Friends of Oregon
  • American Rivers
  • Audobon Society
  • Beyond Toxics
  • Center for Biological Diversity
  • Climate Solutions
  • Defenders of Wildlife
  • Environment Oregon
  • National Wildlife Federation
  • Oregon Environmental Council
  • Oregon League of Conservation Voters
  • Oregon Wild
  • Rogue Riverkeepers
  • Sierra Club Oregon Chapter
  • Trout Unlimited
  • Tualatin Riverkeepers
  • WaterWatch of Oregon
  • Wild Salmon Center
  • Willamette Riverkeepers
From their series of actions and inactions in the Upper Klamath River Basin, I can only conclude that the Oregon Water Resources Department no longer represents the interests of Oregon’s irrigated agriculture.

The Klamath County Assessor and various economic consultants estimate an economic loss of $500 MILLION dollars to the area in just this year alone from this water cut off. Can you imagine if the area near you sustained economic damages and loss of $500 Million in the next few months and then that much for the foreseeable future, year after year?
Certainly Klamath County and the state of Oregon cannot withstand economic devastation of this magnitude, yet it is happening right now. To further complicate this issue, it is our own Oregon Water Resources Department that ordered the administrative ruling that appears to overturn the Ninth Circuit Court’s judicial ruling. It will be years before judicial branch challenges to this agency’s decision can work their way through the federal court system.
It will be far too late for the farms and ranches, the families, the livestock and crops of the Klamath Basin by then. An estimated 100,000 head of cattle in the upper basin will need to be liquidated or removed this summer from the area. Cattle and dairy combined have ranked as Oregon’s second largest agricultural commodity. Klamath County ranks among the largest cattle producers in Oregon. Klamath County is a major contributor overall to Oregon’s healthy and massive agricultural sector and this administrative ruling will undoubtedly be felt throughout Oregon and our economy. We as a state cannot afford to be at the mercy of an agency with its own agenda.

HB 3499 - Meth Bill Update

The Herald and News published an editorial on June 26th, "State Senate should give 'meth house' bill a chance."
Read editorial here

On Tuesday, the Herald and News published "House bill 3499 stalled, glimmer of hope remains."
Read article here

At this time we do not know why HB 3499 has been assigned by President Courtney to a closed committee, the Senate Committee on General Government, Consumer and Small Business Protection. Despite the urging of many Senators and the general public, he refuses to move forward with this bill, which left the House chamber with a unanimous 60-0 vote. 
Best regards,

Representative Gail Whitsett
House District 56

Klamath Water Rally - July 1

On Monday, July 1, there will be a Klamath County Agricultural/Economic Impact Rally at the fairgrounds and County Courthouse.

Due to the Legislature still being in session, Senator and Representative Whitsett are unable to attend. Many critically important bills are scheduled for a vote at the beginning of next week.

Senator and Representative Whitsett are seeking to promote awareness of these issues in the State Capitol.

Click the image to download rally flyer and details on the economic impacts.

Rep. Whitsett Admonishes Water Resources Department

Rep. Whitsett speaks against SB 5547, the budget bill for the Oregon Water Resources Deparment.
Rep. Whitsett delivers a remonstrance on the House floor regarding the Oregon Water Resource Department's decisions and their effect on the Klamath Basin.

Governor Signs SB 420, Breast Density Bill

Rep. Whitsett, Sen. Dingfelder, Sen. Steiner-Hayward, Rep. Williamson, and the family of breast cancer prevention advocate Laura Caldwell watch as Governor Kitzhaber signs SB 420 into law on June 25th.
“This important bill aims to increase the detection of breast cancer in the 40 percent of women whose breast tissue cannot be adequately screened by mammography, by making women with this condition aware of alternative modalities for cancer detection,” Rep. Whitsett said in her press release.
SB 420 passed the Senate on a unanimous vote March 28 and the House June 3, also with a unanimous vote. It was signed by Senate President Peter Courtney June 6 and House Speaker Tina Kotek the following day.
“With the passage of SB 420 through both chambers of the Oregon Legislature and today’s signature into law by the governor, Oregon joins the ranks of 12 other states who have enacted legislation elevating breast density’s role in cancer detection to the highest levels of public health awareness,” Rep. Whitsett said.

Rep. Whitsett Speaks Out on Drug Trafficking

For the full text of Representative Whitsett's drug trafficking remonstrance, click here
H&N View: 'Cartel' stories send wake-up call to Oregon
Are Oregonians as naive about the dangers of the Mexican drug cartels as one federal prosecutor said they were in a Sunday Associated Press article? The story included a reference to two recent murders in Klamath County.
Read Herald and News editorial

Drug cartels in Oregon: Violence in the Northwest
The Oregonian has learned that Mexican cartels, including the powerful Sinaloa and the brutal Los Zetas, have infiltrated almost every corner of Oregon. At last count, authorities were aware of no fewer than 69 drug trafficking organizations selling drugs in the state, nearly all supplied by cartels.
Read Oregonian article

2013 Oregon HIDTA Threat Assessment & Counter-Drug Strategy
Oregon High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area report by the Oregon Department of Justice, detailing drug trafficking organizations with foreign and domestic connections that are actively operating throughout Oregon.
View report

Oregon State University Veterinary Commencement

Both Senator and Representative Whitsett attended the Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine commencement ceremony on Saturday, June 22.

Senator Whitsett , DVM, and Captain Terri R. Clark, Chief Veterinarian for the US Public Health Service, delivered the commencement speeches.

Captain Clark's speech will be featured in a later newsletter.

This Week in Salem:

House OKs voter registration expansion
Note: Rep. Whitsett voted No on this bill
The Oregon House voted Tuesday to approve Secretary of State Kate Brown’s plan to expand Oregon’s voter registration rolls by using driver records. The 32-28 vote sent the bill to the Senate.
Read Statesman Journal article


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Representative Gail Whitsett
900 Court St. NE, Salem, OR 97301 H-474

Read Senator Doug Whitsett's newsletters here



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