Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Fighting for Our Right to Irrigate Our Farms and Caretake Our Natural Resources

FFA group hears Klamath farmers, 3/7/03  By Sharon Burke , Capitol Press

Hillsboro, Ore. -- Not knowing whether or not they will get water this year,
Klamath Basin farmers spoke about their plight to about 100 FFA members
Friday night at Hillsboro High School. {CORRECTION: "From the Klamath Bucket Brigade:  According to the organizers of the FFA Alumni Association meeting in Hillsboro, Oregon on February 28, 260 past and present FFA members were at the event."}

"We know our problem is far from over," said Bill Ransom, member of the
Klamath Bucket Brigade and spokesperson for the group. "We have a drought
situation and we don't know whether we'll get help."

Ransom and six of his colleagues attended the 75th celebration of the FFA
sponsored by the Washington County Area FFA organization, which consists of
chapters in Banks, Sherwood, Forest Grove and Hillsboro.

"I heard them (the Klamath Basin farmers) speak at an event in Hermiston,"
said John Stables, advisor of the Hillsboro FFA chapter. "I think what they
have to say is an important message and that the Columbia Basin could be

Back in April 2001, the Bureau of Reclamation decided to cut off the Klamath
farmers' water for irrigation and instead provided that water for fish. While
the farmers received water last year, they remain unsure about this year's
water supply.
They travel in their attempt to educate others on their situation.

The Klamath Bucket Brigade, a nonprofit organization, originally was formed
to distribute $300,000 in donations, said Barbara Hall, a member.

"But now our focus is on education, especially on matters concerning the ESA
(Endangered Species Act)," she said.

Another goal of the group is to identify what they say are lies and half
truths provided by environmentalists who agree with the federal Bureau of
Reclamation's concerns for the fish and wildlife in the Klamath Reclamation
Project area, Hall added.

"They're blaming our (Klamath) basin for all the problems," Ransom said.
"This just is not possible. We are not responsible for the fish kill. There
is more water going down the river than before the dams were built. When you
get rid of the flooding, you have a more steady flow all year round."

Originally built in the early 1900s, the dams in the area transformed Klamath
Basin from a constant flooding problem to an area that could be farmed and
managed. In fact, dams were designed to provide more water for irrigation
that what is
currently used, Ransom said.

"We only have about 240,000 acres of irrigated land in the area," Ransom
said. "And we use a small percentage of the water available."

In 2002, farmers used 348,217 acre/feet of water, which is only 3.2 percent
of the total amount, Ransom said. The Klamath Reclamation project, which also
were designed to reuse the water up to seven times, rate a 95 percent
efficiency rate and
until 2001 had never dried up in 95 years, Ransom said.

As a way to get their message out and help other farmers facing the same
problems with environmentalists and the Endangered Species Act, members of
the Bucket Brigade took off on an early fall, 8,800 mile trip through 11

"We were requested back in June from the Dade County Farm Bureau in Florida
who was having trouble with the Corp of Engineers and who were impressed by
the way we handled our situation," Ransom said. "When we had our problem, we
had a lot of people give us money and we felt as if we owed something back."

From September to October 2002, eight members traveled with a large bucket
and shovel and made appearances in California, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico,
Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

"Two of the tools that the pioneers had were a bucket and a shovel, and for
us they symbolize property rights," Ransom said.

In every state where they made an appearance, the group met with state
representatives and discussed the errors of the Endangered Species Act. "We
advocated support of the amendments to the ESA," Ransom said. "Government
does not need to own our land."

To pay for the $15,000 trip, members auctioned off shovels and buckets. While
the Dade County (Fla.) Farm Bureau changed its mind about meeting with the
group, Ransom said he thought it was a successful trip.

"We let people know that there is someone out there who can help," Ransom
said. "We accomplished a common thread throughout the country and made
contacts with a number of groups."



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