Letter and Today's Speech from Greg Walden   May 2, 2001     Speech is Below

 Dear Friend:

 I wanted to drop you a quick message to update you on my efforts to let
 others know about the water crisis we face in the Klamath Basin. Today I
am  sending an insert from the Klamath Falls Herald and News to provide
 background on this tragedy to all 434 of my colleagues in the House. This
 afternoon, sometime between 12-1 PM Pacific, I will speak on the House
floor  about the crisis and the need to inject long-overdue common sense into the
 Endangered Species Act. The water shutoff on the Klamath Project is an
 example of what can happen when the needs of people are forgotten in the
 rush to protect and restore endangered and threatened species. My goal is
 to address the problems in the Klamath Basin and work to prevent future
 crises of this sort.

 If you would like to listen to my speech in the House live, click here
 http://www.c-span.org/watch/  to visit the C-SPAN website. If you want to
 read a transcript of my remarks or view a recorded version of my speech,
 click here: http://www.walden.house.gov  to visit my website.

 Thank you for your interest in this important matter. Together we can
make  a difference for the Klamath Basin and for the entire rural west.

 Best Regards,

 Greg Walden
 Member of Congress


Address to the U.S. House of Representatives

on the Klamath Water Crisis

Congressman Greg Walden

Wednesday, May 2, 2001

Mr. Speaker, members of the House, we are in the midst of an economic disaster in the Klamath Basin of Oregon that demands the attention of this Congress and this country.

 The good people of this Basin were lured there by a promise made by the Federal government nearly a century ago.  Come settle the West and we’ll provide you with land and water.  Produce food for our nation, and secure our western expansion and we will reward you. 

 Moreover, the government gave first priority to the men and women who fought for our nation’s freedom in World War I and World War II.  Yes, our veterans who risked life and limb were rewarded, indeed enticed, to help the government reclaim the land and feed the country. 

In 1905, the newly created Bureau of Reclamation started construction of the Klamath Reclamation Project on the lands surrounding Upper and Lower Klamath Lakes on the Oregon and California border.  The “Project” -- using dams, canals and ditches -- brought water to the arid land.

Three years later, President Theodore Roosevelt designated our country’s first National Wildlife Refuge in the Klamath Basin. Roosevelt understood and supported the need for irrigated agriculture and the inter-relationship the project had with the refuge.

For years, farming and wildlife co-existed beneficially.

Water from the project fed into the refuge…and farmers grew crops that in part were available for the birds.  A tremendous resurgence of bald eagles occurred.

Today, all of this is threatened: the quality of the refuge, the livelihood of the farmers. 


Because over time the government has passed new laws that re-allocate the water in more ways than there is water.  And on April 6th, the Bureau of Reclamation announced for the first time in history there would be NO water for the farmers.  None. Zip.  Zilch. Nada.

 The gates would remain closed.  The canals would remain dry.  The farmers were on their own.   

Suckers -- that’s right, sucker fish -- in Upper Klamath Lake now had to be saved at all costs. Higher lake levels were set.  Meanwhile, other biologists said more water must flow down the Klamath River to help threatened salmon runs.  More water in the lake.  More water in the river.  But NO water for farmers. 

The Endangered Species Act is supposed to have a reasonable and prudent test…so I ask you, is it reasonable and prudent to bankrupt nearly two thousand farm families?  Is it reasonable and prudent to bring economic disaster to an entire basin? Is it a reasonable and prudent operations plan for the project to not operate the project?  Monday, a federal court said it was.

 I couldn’t disagree more, and these new requirements are anything but reasonable and prudent for the farming families and communities in the Basin.

So today, we’re facing disaster.  And today, we must decide as a nation that if we are going to pass laws for the “benefit” of the whole country, then if those laws bring about the demise of a few, the whole nation needs to compensate the few for their loss. 

So I am proceeding with aggressive efforts to get disaster relief to the farmers and others in the Basin who are living this hardship every day.

I am also working closely with the Bush Administration to step up efforts to add to the water storage in the Basin, so that fish and farmers will have adequate supplies in the years ahead. 

 If the government is going to allocate more water than it has, then it darn well better figure out how to keep its commitment by adding to the storage.

I commend Chairman Hansen for appointing a bipartisan task force to look into the Endangered Species Act and how it is affecting people and communities.  Today I have asked him to use the situation in the Klamath Basin specifically as a perfect example of the problem.

Too often in the past, the federal government has set the standards and then gotten in the way of our ability to achieve them.  Today I met with federal officials and urged them to let Oregonians have more say in how we meet federal laws.  Oregonians have a proud record of environmental stewardship and leadership.  What we need most right now is for the federal government to work with us, not against us.  To stand up for balance, not disaster. 

 This administration has tried in vain to find a way to provide water to farmers this year, but they were boxed in by the unworkable requirements of the Endangered Species Act.  They’ve inherited a mess, but at least they’re working with us to bring a change.

From the dust bowl and disaster that will result this summer, perhaps will rise the change that is so needed, and so overdue.  We should never have ended up in this place.

 Perhaps the recognition will come that people and communities must be part of any successful effort to improve our environment… and not simply double-crossed and run off the land.

 Thank you, Mr. Speaker.