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Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Klamath Project


Liz Writes Life, by Liz Bowen, weekly column published in Siskiyou Daily News June 17, 2020

The saga of the government taking away legal water right allocations to 1,200 farmers in the government-encouraged Klamath Project continues. I attended many meetings in 2001 and reported (for a Fort Jones newspaper) on the entire shut-off of water to Klamath Project farmers and saw first-hand the fraudulent government scientific information that was used to justify the taking of irrigation water. It was excruciatingly sad, humiliating and down-right wrong.
But, believe it or not, this year is even worse because the Klamath Project farmers were told by federal agencies they would receive at least some water – but less than half their legal amount. Most farmers obtain loans to plant their crops, so they plan accordingly. Now, their crops are in the ground and growing. But, last month, federal agencies said the project’s water allotments would be reduced – again – meaning no water for July, August and September.
A rally called “Shut down and Fed Up” was held on May 29, 2020 with more than 2,000 people showing-up with tractors, log trucks, hay trucks, pick-ups and cars rolling from Merrill, OR. into Klamath Falls, OR. and down through the basin to Midland, OR. It was over 20 miles long.
In 2001, well-over 15,000 supporters showed-up to the Bucket Brigade Rally held on May 7th. I, and many Siskiyou Co. agriculturists, attended. It was quite the peaceful rally.

The fight continues to be about water needed for the sucker fish that are listed with the Endangered Species Act. Drought adds to the lack of water. This is where the government’s science has caused this huge problem. It has been proven the modeling and science to improve the suckers’ numbers is wrong, yet the federal bureaucrats turn a blind eye.

Last Thursday, June 11, 2020, a huge pulse of water was released from the Upper Klamath Lake down the Klamath River with the expectation of flushing out a parasite that can harm salmon – not the suckers. This pulse was so large that it caused flooding. The pulse was ramped-up for at least five days taking the legally-stored water, which is the legal water-right to the Klamath Project farmers. Such a waste! So this is creating another federal government-made drought, which will destroy food and farmers. Why?

Our Dist. 1 Congressman, Doug LaMalfa, has been seriously engaged with other Oregon and California elected-officials, including our Siskiyou Co. supervisors, to pressure the federal bureaucrats and get the legal water back to the farmers. It is a mountainous job. LaMalfa drove a tractor in the May 29th rally. He and his staff have been attending meetings and explaining the dire situation with U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration.
Of the situation, LaMalfa said: “With the current uncertainly to our nation’s food supply chain because of COVID-19, Klamath Basin farmers play a key role in producing for their market share of our nation’s food supply. They’ve worked for generations to supply this country with their unique crops. The federal government has, in this last-minute water grab, created its own unnecessary disaster that threatens the entire Klamath Basin’s 2020 crop year – its prosperity and way of life – only compounding the ability to keep healthy food on our nation’s supermarket shelves. Farmers typically contend with the possibility of poor weather and crop prices in a given crop years, but this year, atrocious forecasting and a mind-boggling eleventh-hour water cut by federal bureaucrats have caused potential for the greatest calamity the Basin has ever seen.”

The project farmers cultivate 210,000 acres of wheat, barley, alfalfa, potatoes, onions, horseradish, sugar beets and other crops. Hypocrisy and this destruction to farmers does not bode well for the health and well-being of the United States’ people.
Next week, I will explain some history of this government-made farming area, which is, ironically, under-siege by that same government.

Liz Bowen began writing ranch and farm news, published in newspapers, in 1976. She is a native of Siskiyou County and lives near Callahan. Columns from the past year can be found at: lizwriteslife.blogspot.com. Call her at 530-467-3515.



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