THE PARAGON FOUNDATION
( linked, see their web site)
Alamogordo, New Mexico
Office of Public Relations
Toll Free 1-877-847-3443
For Immediate Release: April 20, 2001
BUCKET BRIGADE PLANNED TO SUPPORT KLAMATH BASIN FARMERS
Crisis in the Pacific Northwest: 6,000 California and Oregon residents
to lose water rights
A huge bucket brigade and rally has been planned for noon, May 7 in Klamath Falls, Oregon. The event will support the Klamath Basin farmers and ranchers, whose way of life is being exterminated as a result of federal regulatory decisions.
Bucket brigades have been a symbol of unified community action against threatened disaster throughout the history of the American West. Americans who wish to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Klamath farmers and ranchers against this injustice are invited to bring a bucket and join the brigade.
The 1,400 farms located in Siskiyou and Modoc County, California, and Klamath County in Oregon, were homesteaded, in part, by veterans of WWI and WWII at the special invitation of a grateful nation. These veterans were enticed with the promise of a rich irrigated land in which they could invest their blood, sweat and tears.
Local residents are now in shock at the decision by the federal government
to completely shut off the irrigation water that serves more than 90% of the farmers. The decision, based on inflated claims to minimum lake
levels and downstream flows for threatened fish, leaves no water to allocate to the other 6,000 water users, including several major National Wildlife Refuges hosting migratory waterfowl.
With the lakes and reservoirs currently brimming with water, it is difficult for these small family farmers and ranchers not to feel betrayed and abandoned by their government. "What do I do now? How will we pay the bills? Where will we go?" are common phrases hanging heavily in the air. With the economy already stressed by decade-long regulation and low prices for crops, it is likely that almost 80% of these small operations could fail this year if families can't farm.
The federal decision goes against the entire history of the Klamath Basin.
In 1905, California and Oregon ceded lake and marshland to the federal government specifically for conversion to agricultural use under the
Newlands Reclamation Act. The Klamath Project then evolved into a complex system of irrigation canals, dams, diversions and drains, bringing life-giving water to crops grown in the some of the richest soil in
America. Water use rights under a bi-state compact set water use priorities with agriculture both first and second in line, then recreation and wildlife third.
The tri-county Klamath Basin produces $100 million in hay, grains, and vegetables. This, in turn, produces an additional $250 million in economic activity in the various agriculturally-dependent communities throughout
the region. Livestock herds, now being liquidated, are worth another $100 million in replacement costs.
Without farms, thousands of farmworkers will have no work. Without farmers to buy seed, supplies and equipment, the infrastructure of small businesses that support agriculture will collapse. Then, like dominoes, the restaurants, grocery stores and other small community businesses will lose their customer base. Property values will plummet, thousands of loans will default and county tax revenues will follow the economic spiral
How can it be that the world has turned upside down for these people? According to federal agencies, once a species has been federally listed as threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act, it's alleged needs must come before the needs, rights and property of individual Americans. In this limited water year, rather than share the shortfall, it has been decided that sucker fish suddenly need elevated lake levels and coho salmon need greatly increased downstream flows. Because the federal government is involved in the mechanics of distributing the farmer's and rancher's water through the Klamath Project, it has decreed that fish come first over farms and families.
During past periods of low-water, such as 1992 and 1994, Klamath farmers worked for balance, voluntarily supporting the water needs of the waterfowl and wildlife refuges. When faced with another low-water year this year, the Klamath Water Users developed a plan to share the limited water among users. The plan, however, was rejected. Now, experts predict 420,000 tons of topsoil will blow away this year, because farmers without water cannot even plant cover crops to save the soil.
No compensation is being tendered by the government for its "taking" of land value or the "investment backed expectations" of these small
farmers. These families, their livelihood, lifestyle, hopes and dreams, are
being sacrificed to the inflexibility of a bad regulation - the Endangered Species Act.
It is time to stand with these hard-working families against a federal
bureaucracy running wild and against all reason.
BACKGROUND PAGE ON THE CRISIS