Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.

 AgLifeNW Magazine January 2004 Issue

Our government destroyed a Mexican immigrant's farm, and his son is fighting for freedom in Iraq

Written by KBC  Photo by Pat Ratliff.

Many Klamath Basin farmers and ranchers, including Vernacio Hernandez, were on hand at the Congressional Committee on Resources field hearing in Klamath Falls, Oregon July 17, 2004
It didn’t matter how hard Vernacio Hernandez worked to own his own farm, or that his son is fighting in a foreign war on terrorism. Vernacio’s life and productivity was and is not important to America.

The Klamath Basin 2001 irrigation water shut-off to 1400 family farms ‘was unjustified’! These were the words of the ultimate peer-review, the NAS (National Academy of Science), in February 2002, months after family farms and ranches were devastated.

Wells went dry. There were auctions. Suicides. Fatal heart attacks. Over 150 domestic wells went dry or were contaminated. Wildlife refuges went dry. Over 430 species of wildlife were harmed for ‘unjustified’ agenda-driven ‘science’ that killed the land. The community cried out.

On July 17, 2004 the Congressional Committee on Resources held a field hearing in Klamath Falls, Oregon. At this hearing it was accentuated by every witness and every member of Congress on the panel that the Endangered Species Act, which was used to shut down the Klamath Basin irrigation water and timber harvest, is broken. There was no peer review of the ‘science’ that was later proven false. Dreams and lives crumbled.

Mexican immigrant Vernacio Hernandez from Tulelake, California was one of the witnesses at this hearing, sharing how the Endangered Species Act and false, un-peer-reviewed science, ruined his livelihood:

"I arrived here in 1973 and I worked here for five years or so. Then I went back to Mexico, got married…. When I got married I decide to come here to the Klamath Basin. We have five kids. One of them is a nurse, two more are in college, one of them will graduate from high school this coming year. The other one decide to serve in the army….last two months he says, ‘ I’m enlisted and I’m going to Iraq." (he cries)

"And how 2001 effect me? Well, my farm went, as we say, bye-bye. If it was wrong decision or right decision, I’m done now. I lost my farm, my equipment that I slowly got, it was sold out." He told how the Mexican farm workers had to pack up and leave with no job or money, and no place to go.

Since the NAS said the elevated flows and irrigation shutoff were unjustified, river flows are much greater now than before the Klamath Project was built to store irrigation water, and the river occasionally went dry before the Project was built, California Congressman John Doolittle encouraged panelist Steve Williams, Fish and Wildlife Regional director, to speed up the reconsultation process regarding this biological opinion. This opinion is what forces Klamath to send 100,000 Acre Feet of water to the ocean and has not been updated since the NAS peer review. You need to speed up this process, "given that will impose an enormous hardship to get to 100,000 AF because you’re waiting until 2006, so that we can avoid imposing that additional hardship? I mean, after all, you kind of owe them (the farmers) that after what you did in 2001." He added that the USFWS and Bureau of Reclamation should "err on the side of the people."

Why is it that, when the NAS determined that our government’s damage inflicted on these farm communities was wrong, they did not make amends and help Vernacio restore his farm? They didn’t help him or the other devastated farmers and ranchers. They won’t help the logging communities that now realize more owls died in wildfires than timber harvest. They are disregarding the peer-review. They are disregarding the Congressmen representing our communities. We have no voice to govern these government agencies.

So, now what? We can watch our freedom to farm and own property, like Vernacio’s, vanish. Or we fight for America’s little people who just want to live on the land and provide food and lumber and employment. We can watch the entire West join in the demise of Oregon which has the highest unemployment in the United States; Oregon has obliterated its timber industry, and much of the fishing and agriculture.

Or we will find a way to regain an America "of the People, by the People, and for the People". We have a lot of work to do before it is too late.





Page Updated: Monday April 02, 2012 02:32 AM  Pacific

Copyright © klamathbasincrisis.org, 2004, All Rights Reserved