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

    Farmers Deliver Water to Klamath Refuge

For Immediate Release:
September 13, 2001

Contact:  Tulelake Growers Association 
Rob Crawford         (541) 892-6685
Deb Crisp               (530) 667-5214

            Farmers Deliver Water to Klamath Refuge

 The heart of Tulelake’s agricultural community goes out to those who have lost loved ones in the recent terrorist assault.  No words can express the loss that has occurred.  This act of terrorism confirms the need to keep U.S. farmers on the land.  Food production within our own borders is an integral part of our national security.

 Today, Tulelake Irrigation District and local farmers sent the first of approximately 4,300 acre-feet of water to the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge. Despite an unprecedented water shortage to local farms and the refuge in the Klamath Basin this year, Tule Lake farmers have committed a portion of their newly developed groundwater resource to the refuge.  This water will immediately begin to replenish the wetlands and marshes vital to waterfowl, shorebirds and bald eagles that rely upon them for resting and feeding opportunities.

 Conservation groups such as California Waterfowl Association and Ducks Unlimited are applauding today’s action by Tulelake Irrigation District and local farmers to protect the region’s waterfowl and wildlife. Over the years, these interests have worked to take meaningful steps to benefit the refuges and the wildlife that relies upon them. Over the past decade, Klamath Basin agricultural interests supported the conversion of more than 25,000 acres of farmland into wildlife habitat, and in March recommended steps to alleviate the water supply shortages facing the refuges (see attached letter).  Earlier this year, the California Waterfowl Association, Tulelake Irrigation District and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, completed the Integrated Land Management Plan for the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge “lease lands” that includes a marsh crop rotation program to maximize waterfowl habitat values and farming. Also, in late April, out of serious concern over the substantial loss of refuge wetlands and agricultural habitat, California Waterfowl Association filed to intervene as plaintiffs with the farmers in the current lawsuit challenging the federal water allocation actions.  

“Farmers in the Upper Klamath Basin have long been true friends of our Pacific Flyway waterfowl,” stated Bill Gaines, Director of Government Affairs for California Waterfowl Association (CWA).  “The Upper Klamath Basin is the most important waterfowl staging area in all of North America.  Each year, millions of migrating waterfowl depend upon the habitat provided by wildlife-friendly agriculture to meet their energetic needs.  The critical importance of these fields to our waterfowl resource is a primary reason why CWA has intervened on the side of the farmers in the current lawsuit challenging the shutoff of water to agriculture,” Gaines added. “This year, these growers have taken a huge hit. Yet, regardless of their own significant problems, they continue to keep the needs of waterfowl close to their hearts.  Their willingness to release 4,300 acre-feet of water to the parched refuge is a clear indicator of their commitment to the Pacific Flyway resource.”

A number of landowners, Ducks Unlimited and the National Wildlife Refuge Complex 
have been restoring wetlands in the Klamath Basin over the past ten years.  
“Ducks Unlimited is extremely pleased that the Tulelake Irrigation District and local farmers have taken such a positive approach to the serious water situation on Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge.  The farmer’s willingness to take such practical short-term action sets a fine example for others to follow.  We are keenly aware of the importance of both the refuge and small grain agriculture to Pacific Flyway waterfowl populations and we see this as a significant first step towards long-term solutions that will assure the economic, ecological, cultural and social health of the Basin” said Mark Biddlecomb, Ducks Unlimited Director of Conservation for the Intermountain West.

 Authorized by President Roosevelt under an Executive Order in 1908, Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge is the most important waterfowl refuge in the National Wildlife Refuge System. Along with the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge, these two refuges provide critical staging and nesting habitat for up to 80% of California’s wintering waterfowl and well over 20% of North America’s waterfowl population. Klamath Refuge Complex wetlands also play host to a variety of other wetland-dependent species, many of which are of “special concern” -- including the largest wintering population of bald eagles in the lower 48 states.

 For nearly a century, local farmers, the Lower Klamath and Tule Lake refuges received their water supplies from the federal Klamath Irrigation Project. But this year, the refuges and local farms were denied their water supplies due to regulatory requirements for endangered fish species, including the Lost River Sucker and shortnose sucker in Upper Klamath Lake and adjacent areas, and threatened coho salmon in the Klamath River. Late this summer, Secretary of Interior Gale Norton ordered the release of 75,000 acre-feet of water for cover crops so the region’s fertile soil would not be irretrievably lost to wind erosion. 

 Lower Klamath Refuge gained national attention in September of last year when its wetland water deliveries were reduced for two weeks to maintain specified lake levels in Upper Klamath Lake to protect endangered suckers, and to meet minimum fishery flows for coho salmon. With only one-third of Lower Klamath Refuge wetlands flooded-up for the much anticipated early October waterfowl season opener, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reduced the number of permits issued to hunters and restricted the refuge area open to waterfowl hunting – raising serious concerns among duck hunters.  Full deliveries were soon resumed and the refuge received its full annual entitlement. 

 Last year, Tulelake Irrigation District collaborated with Ducks Unlimited and U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the Sump 1B project, a long-term project to transform standing lake water into valuable marsh habitat and seasonal wetlands. The three organizations also worked on federal legislation authored by Senators Gordon Smith (R-OR) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Congressmen Greg Walden (R-OR) and Wally Herger (R-CA) to augment the Klamath Basin’s water supplies (P.L. 106-498). \



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