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The Klamath: The Basin, The Bucket and Backbone 

March 12, 2006 

By Barb Hall and Julie Kay Smithson 

The other definition of watershed is of interest to everyone who's aware of the Klamath.

Watershed - A crucial dividing point, line or factor: a turning point.

2001 was a watershed year for the Klamath and for America. There are many reasons for this, but there is one besides 9-11 that will forever be branded in the hearts and minds of Klamath Basin residents and the people nationwide that became involved in the Klamath Basin in the summer of 2001.

In 2001, the Klamath's farming community lost its guarantee of water -- a guarantee that had stood the Klamath and America's consumers in good stead for nearly a century.

For all the talk of "restoration," the Klamath has never been static.

The Klamath -- its land and water, its people, plants and animals -- has always been changing and adapting to shifting weather patterns. In dry years -- before the Klamath Project -- everyone suffered. Change brought the Klamath Project to the Klamath Basin and made it sparkle like it did at one time only in the wet years, but never even then was it as bountiful as the Klamath Project's arrival made it!

Water evaporated or ran downstream. Water, in the years before irrigated farming in the Klamath Basin, was available once before it either "went up" (evaporation) or "went down" (downstream).

The birth of the Klamath Project was a watershed moment: for the people, plants, animals, birds and fish of the Klamath Basin.

At last came the chance for the use and reuse of water, over and over, with little evaporation but vastly increased production -- and with just 2 - 4 percent of the water going into agriculture.

The Basin bloomed and blossomed. What was once a place where people lived at the mercy of the weather became a place of verdant beauty and measurable success. The bounty of the land fed everyone, from the people of the Klamath to its plants and animals, both cultivated and wild. No longer was the Klamath at the mercy of the weather with its ever-changing "feast or famine."

The Bucket was born in 2001, crafted by those with an intimate knowledge of the importance of water: to people, plants, animals, birds, fish, and land. The Bucket was huge, but it symbolized a huge issue: Water in the Klamath and Water for the Future of the Klamath. The Bucket was simple, both in design and adornment. Its very presence brought grown men to tears and teenagers to cheers. People looked upon it in amazement, just as they did the arrival in their neighborhood of loads of hay from distant states, donated food (for people and animals) and other necessities, and the gathering of good people in Klamath Falls, Oregon, in August 2001.

The Bucket was built to last. The Bucket came to stay, for it signified all that was -- and is -- good in the Klamath. Water is the lifeblood of life itself in the Klamath: for everyone. No one and nothing can live without it.

When guaranteed water was shut off to the irrigators who had paid for it in advance, a play began in the Klamath. Act One was the shutting off of the water.

Act Two was the reaction to the shutoff.

Act Three was the convergence on Klamath Falls of people from all over America -- from as far away as Maryland, Ohio and Texas. A central Nevada rancher, an Idaho stateswoman and others pivotal to America's continued Constitutional Republic -- all came to Klamath Falls to make a stand.

Act Four was the peaceful encampment at the "A" Canal Headgates, a place that became hallowed ground and "Ground Zero" before 9-11. Never was a meal prepared and served that prayer was not said first. II Chronicles, Chapter 7, Verse 14, hung on a banner above the entrance to the big green-and-white Headgates Tent. "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

The Klamath was where America's Backbone coalesced, just like Jarbidge and The Shovels in northeast Nevada, the Darby of Ohio and The Log Haul in Montana.

Water for agriculture cannot, should not and must not be "mitigated."

The Basin, The Bucket and Backbone are not negotiable. All are here to stay. Those seeking to sell "restoration" and "mitigation" are marketing snake oil in the twenty-first century. It's time to see that and recognize it for the Trojan Horse it is.

The Wildlands Project -- goes. For all its slick talk, "restoration" and "protection" by outsiders is a sham. Everyone is wounded by such an agenda, except those pushing it, but they are not farmers and irrigators that raise food that feeds people. No one doubts that parts of the Klamath are wild -- the wild flocks that migrate and winter in the Klamath are wild, but they go where the food is: food that is there because of the Klamath farmers and irrigators, not in spite of them. Cut off the water to the Klamath Project and you kill much more than the 1,400 farmers and their way of life.

The Basin, The Bucket and Backbone stay.

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