One side of Langell Valley is lush, the
other is dry
and Jim Camozzi rent out their pasture land to a neighboring
cattle rancher. They live on the western side of Langell Valley,
which stopped receiving irrigation water on July 7. H&N photo by
By Jill Aho, Herald and News, July 28, 2009
BONANZA — One half of Langell Valley is green and lush, with some
alfalfa fields ready for a second cutting and others getting
close. The other half is drying out.
The Bureau of Reclamation shut off water deliveries from Clear
Lake on July 7, which affects the western side of the valley. The
eastern side, which gets water deliveries from Gerber Reservoir,
is still receiving irrigation water.
About 40 of the 113 irrigators in the Langell Valley Irrigation
District are impacted by the shutoff.
The majority of landowners in Langell Valley rely on cattle and
alfalfa crops for income. Many rent their pastures to ranchers.
Those on the west side say they are likely to lose some of that
rental income when their pastures die and ranchers are forced to
move their herds to greener land.
Others, who grow alfalfa crops, will get one good cutting, a
second if they’re lucky, and the alfalfa market is poor. Hay
prices reached record highs last year, but the U.S. Department of
Agriculture reports that demand for most grades of hay is light
while the supply remains moderate to heavy in Oregon markets.
“Right now, the entire hay market is pretty soft,” said Willie
Riggs, director of the Oregon State University Klamath Basin
Research and Extension Center. “What we’re seeing in the forage
market is it’s half what it was last year.”
Kim and Spud Hammerich have about 650 head of cattle on their
ranch. Kim Hammerich said they are among those fortunate
landowners who have access to well water. A few of their neighbors
will have to watch as the cattle are shipped off, either to new
grazing grounds or to slaughter.
Meanwhile, the Hammeriches will contend with high power bills as a
result of pumping from wells.
“Hay prices are low. With cattle prices being low, it’s going to
hurt everybody,” Kim Hammerich said.
Riggs said livestock makes up $108 million of the $300 million
that agriculture pumps into the Klamath County economy.
“If a farmer or rancher in the valley loses a dollar in the
livestock sector, somewhere else in Klamath County, someone else
loses another dollar,” Riggs said. “Every time you don’t produce a
pound of beef, you’re having a negative impact on that $300
Langell Valley Irrigation District charges $19.50 an acre for
irrigation water. There are no refunds in the future for any of
the landowners within the district, Kim Hammerich said.
“They already paid for the water and now they have to come up with
money for hay,” Kim Hammerich said. “Either that or sell their
cows because there’s no pasture.”
Attempts to reach Frank Hammerich, director of the Langell Valley
Irrigation District, were unsuccessful. Several phone messages
over five days left at the district office, Frank Hammerich’s
home, and his cell phone went unreturned.
A trip to the office near Bonanza Thursday found Frank Hammerich
out somewhere in the valley with Bureau of Reclamation
Ranchers’ income threatened
BONANZA — Cindy and Jim Camozzi bought their 240-acre property in
Langell Valley 19 years ago and have restored all the buildings
and the home where they now live. They rent their pasture to a
neighboring cattle rancher, and it constitutes their main source
of income throughout the year.
But after the Bureau of Reclamation shutoff water deliveries July
7 to irrigators on the western half of Langell Valley, the
Camozzis say that income is threatened.
“The difference is we’re not going to be able to keep them here as
long,” Cindy Camozzi said.
Rather than keep the cattle until November, the Camozzis
anticipate the herd will be moved when their pastures die.
The Camozzis took steps to maximize the life of their grazing
They knew water deliveries would be short, so they used aeration
equipment on their pastures, which alleviates both compaction from
the cattle and creates space for water to soak into the ground.
They flood-irrigated right before the water was cut off.
“You see other people watering (on the other side) and we’re
drying up. It’s a hard thing to watch,” Jim Camozzi said.
Jim Camozzi also installed a working windmill from 1925 that pulls
water from deep under ground. With just a little wind, the mill
fills a 500-gallon drum that the cattle congregate around on hot
Cindy Camozzi said the couple can’t plan for how much the shutoff
will affect income this year.
“You don’t know how long the grass is going to last. It’s hard
enough to plan because of the weather. Rain would help,” she said.
“Once that grass dies, once it turns brown, that’ll be it for the
The Camozzis want to see the sucker fish delisted as much as
anyone in the Klamath Basin.
“If we don’t get this sucker fish off the endangered list, we’re
the ones endangered,” Cindy Camozzi said.
“They put them above us. Above our livelihood,” Jim Camozzi added.
“I think the whole way of life in this valley’s in danger. We feel
blessed to live here, but I don’t have a good feeling at all.”