KLAMATH BASIN CRISIS - ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT GONE WRONG
From: Chris Moudry, Basin Fertilizer, Merrill, OR, April 2001
I am writing this memo for insight to what can happen when the Endangered Species Act and environmental extremism come together and attack personal property rights.
You may think, “Not in America!”
Read our story.
In 1905, the U.S. Congress authorized the purchase of existing private irrigation projects in and around Klamath Falls, Oregon. Later in the 1920’s, dams were built on Link River (exit of Upper Klamath Lake), Clear Lake, and Gerber Reservoir. These dams were used to retain the seasonal spring floodwaters and dry up the shallow lakebeds of Lower Klamath Lake and Tulelake.
Through the Klamath Project, water would be available for 240,000 acres in the high desert area of the Klamath Basin.
This promise of cheap land and abundant water brought Czech settlers and Irish settlers, among others, to
the area. As the waters of Tulelake receded, the Project provided Homestead Act opportunities for more than 600 WWI and WWII veterans.
In 1988, the Klamath Tribes petitioned the federal government to list the once plentiful Short-nosed and Lost River Suckerfish as endangered, believing that only 8000 or so remained in Upper Klamath Lake.
Since that time, these suckers have been found throughout lakes and rivers in the area and are estimated to exist by tens if not hundreds of thousands. But the focus remained on Klamath Lake and increasing minimum lake levels to secure recovery of the sucker.
Through the Clinton years, the US Fish & Wildlife Service and the Klamath Tribes spent millions of dollars studying the sucker and its habitat. After the 2000 elections, a feverish attempt was made to write a new Biological Opinion, that was coincidentally signed Jan. 19th , along with a Biological Opinion on the Coho Salmon in the Klamath River.
The sucker B.O. raised the lake level three-foot higher than the previous B.O. and the Coho B.O. required tripling the water released to the river. In a normal year, using both those opinions on water, the Klamath system would be 250,000 acre feet short before delivering one gallon to agriculture.
Seeing this potential shortage aggravated by a drought, Basin Fertilizer and two other companies started an advertising campaign of newspaper and radio ads designed to inform the Klamath public of the impending problem which would affect an estimated 6000 jobs, or about one-quarter of the Klamath area’s job economy. This was followed by a tractor rally in front of the Bureau of Reclamation that included over 100 tractors and as many support companies. These were designed to attract the attention of our Congressional delegation and the Bush administration to our need for them to not accept the two B.O.s, or set them aside. They received thousands of calls and letters intended to persuade them to share water between agriculture and fish as has happened in previous droughts.
The word came down on April 6th. We have been told that Vice President Cheney made the final decision of NO WATER.
We were devastated. But we’re not going to give up.
CALL TO ACTION:
Senator Gordon Smith came to Klamath Falls on April 7th for a townhall meeting. Senator Wyden, Representative Walden, and Governor Kitzhaber all came to Klamath Falls on April 12th. While our Congressional delegation has been very helpful, Governor Kitzhaber has let the federal government usurp Oregon water rights. He paid for it on the 12th. Finally, with help from Klamath Falls business, we energized the community to greet the Governor at a rally staged at the fairgrounds. Ten percent of all
Klamath County, 6500 people, joined him for a Town Hall meeting. While we realized he could not do much now, we did get his attention.
The real problem is the Endangered Species Act and how it calls for single species management and not ecosystem solutions. In the Klamath Basin, we have the sucker and Coho, but also the largest overwintering area for bald eagles. They feed not only in the refuges (that incidentally only receive water from Project irrigation) but also on rodents and fowl that live on the 240,000 acres of private land.
So there are three endangered species, all in conflict with each other, that will idle approximately 170,000 acres of our best farmland, 1400 water user accounts. These include irrigation water on 600 small “ranchette” homes in Klamath Falls South Suburb area, 11 schools sports fields, and 6 sports and recreation parks. Some $150 million plus in farm receipts translate to $350 million in the Klamath Basin economy. All for an unbending law that takes and diminishes the private property rights of individuals.
The Klamath Irrigators without well water access, which is most of the Project, are moving from the area for contracted crops and planting dry land grain to hold the soil from erosion locally. The 2001 cropping year is a disaster. Our goal is to not let this happen again.
Agriculture requires a consistent irrigation water supply. A core group is leading the community towards these goals:
1. To convince the Bush Administration, the Dept. of Interior, etc., that the science behind the Clinton Fish & Wildlife B.O. cannot be substantiated. There is good evidence to that end. It’s not science, but opinion - not based in fact. This will take time but will release our water.
2. To convince the federal government that if society deems these fish of such great importance, then they must find additional water for contracted private land. This would require augmentation of the system with wells or additional water storage.
3. To focus our attention on amending the Endangered Species Act to be ecosystem inclusive and not species specific. The Bush Administration has said they intend to bring sense to the ESA. The Klamath community has pulled together to push that agenda.
4. To promote “The Bucket Brigade” on May 7th sponsored by the Klamath Basin community. Starting at Veteran’s Park in Klamath Falls, the last of the Homestead veterans will dip water from the sucker habitat. They will pass 50 buckets symbolizing the 50 states down Main Street, past Klamath Co. Court House, 1.5 miles to Klamath Union High School. At that point, the buckets will pass to the veteran’s great grandchildren who will dump them in the main canal. With the 6500 that attended the Kitzhaber rally, and the added strain on the community, there should be over 10,000 people. Calls are going out throughout the Internet to associations and property rights groups all over the country. Frontiers of Freedom, a grass roots property rights group, has come on board to help push this agenda nationally. Kahl/Pownall, a public relations firm from Sacramento, has been hired to help gain national attention. This rally will demonstrate the Klamath Basin communities’ belief that local solutions are better than the heavy hand of the federal government, and people are more important that fish.
5. To heighten awareness of this tragedy. This could be your town, your neighbor, your family
destroyed by some “critter living under a rock.” “ME TODAY, YOU TOMORROW.” We ask you only to spread the word to your friends and relatives. Your Congressional delegation must be aware that you want changes in the Endangered Species Act to include people, property rights, and ecosystem solutions.
You can keep abreast of this activity through our web site at www.klamathbasincrisis.org.
Basin Fertilizer & Chemical Co
P.O. Drawer X
Merrill, Or 97633
The Far West Agribusiness Association is dedicated to efficient plant production with a commitment to professionalism, environmental protection, and safety. Far West serves nearly 150 agribusiness manufacturers, distributors, and retailers in the Northwest. www.fwaa.org