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

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     Letter by Curtis to President 

This is a plea to my friends and family on my e-mail list. I would ask you to read the letter I have written to President Bush and sent copies to all those listed on the address list attached. If you could write letters to some or all of the individuals on the address list it would be much appreciated as the more letters of support we can obtain from areas other than the Klamath Basin the more impact our effort will have. Feel free to copy any or all of the attached letter. Thanks for your help. Curtis.

The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20500


Subject: No Water Delivery Devastates Basin. Immediate intervention and amendment of the Endangered Species Act is necessary to avert disaster in the Klamath and Tulelake Basins of Southern Oregon & Northern California.

Dear Mr. President:

For nearly a century, the Klamath Project has successfully operated to provide reliable, efficient water supplies to farmers, ranchers, and national wildlife refuges in the Klamath & Tulelake Basins – without harm to fish. 

The recent decision to deny any water for agri-business or refuge use is devastating. This single, unprecedented
anti-agriculture decision will drastically affect thousands of farm families and thousands of farm dependent jobs for years to come. Our basin faces monumental environmental, health, safety and economic impacts that were never considered; resulting in direct violation of the National Environmental Policy Act.

The financial impact of shutting off irrigation is estimated at a $400,000,000 loss to the Klamath Basin area. This will affect every business, school, government agency and individual dramatically – effectively destroying three towns and wreaking havoc on an entire eco-system.

The Endangered Species Act must be amended NOW and impact on endangered human populations must be considered. We feel absolutely betrayed by our government officials. Funds must be made available immediately to mitigate this regulatory disaster. Payments must include disaster assistance for farmers, ag-dependent businesses and employees of ag-related businesses. Off-stream storage and water development must be a priority. The current stampede to drill irrigations wells could turn into a disaster of its own when all of the domestic wells in the basin go dry. 

Honorable Leader of our Nation:

If you truly represent a nation of leaders: “Of the People, By the People and For the People” you will take the time to read and consider this entire document. Re: Water for Irrigation Klamath & Tulelake Basin, Oregon & California Just a brief history lesson.

The Reclamation Act of 1902 Specified critical regulations:

That the entry man shall in addition to compliance with the homestead laws, reclaim at least on-half of the total irrigable area for his entry for agricultural purposes and before receiving patent for the land covered by his entry shall pay to the Government the charges apportioned against such tract as provided in section four (construction charges). This reclamation project was paid for by the farmers, it appears that the water is the property of the farmers. 

The Homestead Act:

Servicemen both World War 1 and World War 2 Veterans and citizens of the United States were encouraged to enter a drawing to receive homesteads and enter the field of agriculture in the Tulelake and Klamath Basin. This again was done in good faith that the government would live up to it’s agreement to provide water established by the reclamation act of 1902. By 1906 the Bureau of Reclamation completed the necessary paperwork for authorization of the “Klamath Project,” The original homesteads began March 31, 1917 with public notice #10 of the Bureau of Reclamation and the final homesteads were granted to World War II veterans in 1949.

Details that need consideration:

Biological Opinion: The definition of OPINION is as follows from Webster’s New World Dictionary.

1. “a belief not based on absolute certainty or positive knowledge but on what seems true, valid, or probable to one’s own mind; what one thinks; judgment.”

2. On January 19th the U.S. Fish & Wildlife and the National Marine Fisheries Service called for major increases in Upper Klamath Lake Levels for the two sucker species and an increase in Klamath River flows for the Coho salmon. These arbitrary demands for Klamath Basin water by agencies of our Federal Government exceed the total amount generated within our watershed in most years. Why is it not the responsibility of our government to develop new storage of water to meet the needs claimed by this opinion instead of stealing water paid for and belonging to the farmers.

3. A biological opinion should not be provided by individuals that have reason to be bias toward their particular association. Ie: National Marine Fisheries Service, and U.S. Fish & Wildlife. The biological opinion should be obtained by a panel of biologist that are 100% independent of all parties involved in this particular dispute. Also their science should be able to be duplicated by a second independent panel. This would then be true science.

In doing a little research from individuals who remember the basin back in the 1930’s there are individuals who remember early settlers who cut grass hay from areas around upper Klamath Lake that were several feet lower in elevation than the 4140 feet that the Bureau based on recommendations from USFW & NMFS has established as a lake minimum to protect the endangered suckers. ( I think the 1911 picture would support this evidence) If this is true then it must mean that the suckers have previously encountered lower lake levels than those proposed by USFW & NMFS. This brings up another observation; if indeed the suckers are so endangered how is it then possible that the first few years after listing the suckers endangered several thousand suckers were found in the pools of the drained canals and returned to the lake. In my OPINION if thousands of suckers were found in such a small area of water compared to the vast area of Klamath Lake and Klamath Marshes, there must me “millions” of suckers in that body of water. This indeed questions the OPINION that the suckers are at all endangered. Another interesting sidelight is that while the canal sucker collection project was undertaken, individuals from the Fish and Wildlife indicated that there were only a few Biologists who could accurately identify the difference between the Lost River Sucker and the Short Nosed Sucker. 

A little common sense thinking:

1. If an area above sea level experiences a drought that the area closer to sea level would also experience decreased water flow not increased water flow as called for by USFW & NMFS.

2 If there were no dam that the additional water provided by the dam would already be in the ocean by summer and the river would be considerably lower than the level being requested by USFW and the NMFS. Please refer to the attached picture taken in 1911

3. Nature itself occasionally dries up rivers and streams to reduce the disease build up that affects returning salmon and steelhead. Before controls on river’s this was nature’s way of preserving species.

4. The spawning of the suckers is not dependent upon the lake level as much as the inflow of water from the streams as most fish spawn in the streams. A dam placed much later than the Klamath Lake project, has been identified as an obstruction to 90% of the sucker spawning habitat.

5. The attempted poisoning by the government & introduction of sturgeon into Klamath Lake by the managers of Klamath Lake to eliminate the suckers have had some affect on the population of Lost River & Short Nosed Suckers. (These projects failed to eliminate the suckers)

6. The original intent of the endangered species act take into consideration all of the factors in protecting a species, this should include the human survival factor in the equation.

The Government should live up to agreements made almost 100 years ago!

1. With the Reclamation Act and the Homestead Act certain promises, agreements and contracts were made and should be honored by our Government. Once the land was provided with the specific intent to develop agriculture land and the reclamation project was approved to provide water for the reclaimed and homesteaded lands, that promise should be fulfilled.

2. At a time when discrimination is in the forefront, should not the government protect the producers of our food and fiber against discrimination by special interest federal agencies such as USFW & NMFS.

Should the Government also be looking to the future?

1. With our increasing population and our decreasing farmlands common sense would be to promote the future preservation of agriculture for future generations.

2. We must realize that agriculture has continued to feed our nation with surpluses for generations allowing us to remain independent of depending on other nations to feed our increasing population. What will happen to our independence when we become dependent on foreign nations that cannot feed their own let alone the United States of America.

3. Loss of agriculture in Klamath – Tulelake Basin would mean a $400 million per year loss of economic activity to the Klamath Basin economy.

4. Once both farmers and business are bankrupt, not only will thousands of lives be disrupted or destroyed, it will be impossible for agriculture to recover for future generations.

I would appeal to you as leaders of our government to take IMMEDIATE action that includes common sense in the equation of water allocation. Agriculture and the cities of Merrill, Malin & Tulelake in the Klamath – Tulelake Basin may not survive the blow being dealt by the Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish & Wildlife & the National Marine Fisheries Service it will mean numerous bankruptcies and for those who remain, a destroyed agriculture ecosystem.

I would like to think that my father a WWI Veterans and my brothers and father-in-law WWII Veterans did not fight for the freedom of this country only to find that our current government is destroying the American dream.

Curtis D. Newkirk
Retired: Vocational Agriculture Instructor
Retired: Wildlife & Natural Resources Instructor
Farmer: Small grains


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