Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Fighting for Our Right to Irrigate Our Farms and Caretake Our Natural Resources

Let's Get Real in the Klamath River Basin

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from: http://www.oregonlive.com/public_commentary/oregonian/index.ssf?/public_commentary/oregonian/pace0625.frame 

 Monday, June 25, 2001
 By Felice Pace

  Remember Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign? "It's the economy  stupid!" was the watchword. This should be applied to the Klamath River  Basin today.

  Irrigators and local pubahs have declared that federally irrigated
  agriculture is "essential" to the Upper Basin economy and have trundled
out a parade of local "chamber-types" who offer estimates in the range of $200
  to $300 million per year in economic impacts. Local newscasters
compliantly  parrot these estimates -- ignoring studies offered by conservationists.

  Resource economists at Oregon State have responded with professional
  estimates suggesting that agriculture is worth only about $30 million per
  year. The local newspaper, however, mistakenly reported the economists as
  stating that agriculture accounts for 35% of Klamath County income and 58%
  of Siskiyou County income. They really said 3.5% and 5.8%. Reporters also
  dutifully describe the sugar beet and potato crops grown but fail to
  mention that prices and demand for these crops has plummeted as a result
of  NAFTA-generated competition. Local officials even deliberately overstated
  what was planted this year in official reports required to secure disaster
  assistance.

  It is time to get real folks. If we are going to "balance the waters" and
  heal our communities we have to begin by acknowledging and understanding
  where we have been. We need to acknowledge that government and private
  water and land development in the Klamath Basin has caused a massive
  transfer of income from those whose livelihood and culture depend on fish
  -- First Americans, fishermen, coastal and river communities -- to those
  whose livelihood and culture depend on irrigated crops and logs to lumber
  mills. Furthermore, contrary to the claims of irrigators, this income
  transfer did not all take place 90 or so years ago. In fact, in the
  late-1970s Upper Basin irrigation districts invested in tile drains and
the  Bureau of Reclamation doubled the size of the Klamath Straits, increasing
  water demand and resulting in a dramatic decrease in water quality on Tule
  Lake and Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuges and in the Klamath River.

  The dominant patterns of farm production have changed too. The Klamath
  Reclamation Project was created on the Jeffersonian model and favored
small  family farms. Beginning in the early 1980s, however, many family farmers
  stopped farming and began leasing their land to neighbors. In the Tulelake
  Area today, a handful of farmers operate on thousands of acres of leased
  land as well as their own families' parcels. It is estimated that 30% of
  project irrigated farmland is now leased to a handful of growers.
  Additionally, the Enterprise Irrigation District now supplies more
  backyards and schools than farms as steady health and financial service
  growth has spurred the unchecked advance of Klamath Falls onto prime
  agricultural land.

  Judging from Saturday's congressional hearing in Klamath Falls, there is
no shortage of politicians prepared to demagog this issue for their own
  political ends, as well as a host of true believers eager to cheer them
on.  Politicians and right-wing radicals, however, can't change the legal
  reality of tribal water rights nor the challenges facing farmers in a
  global marketplace.

  Whether or not the Bush Administration decides to make the Klamath Basin a
  poster child for its dislike of the Endangered Species Act, the
  reallocation of water among upland, river canyon and coastal communities
  will continue. There is an alternative to doing this in conflict. Finding
  that path, however, will depend on appointed officials foregoing the
  temptation to paper over needed changes and elected representatives rising
  above the expediencies of electioneering. It will also depend on all sides
  rejecting economic myths in favor of an honest reading of history.

  We all need to get real!

  Felice Pace is conservation director for the Klamath Forest Alliance and
  can be reached at Klamath Forest Alliance P.O. Box 820 Etna, CA 96027;
  phone 1-530-467-5291.  email: Klamath@sisqtel.net 

Major funding for KFA  is provided in part by the W. Alton Jones Foundation 
Where would they be without funding? .... attack the source .. the money !!


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