Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
Project shorts refuges
Dan Keppen claims that "when [Klamath Project] farms don't get water, the refuges don't get water" and, "It's the Project and the refuges both that suffer when the flows go downstream." ("Coalition wants farming to stop on KF refuges" April 20, 2004)
As Keppen should know, both statements are untrue: The Project continues to force the refuges and other Basin interests to suffer for irrigation's unsustainable demand for water.
Under the Bureau of Reclamation's 2003 water plan, Project irrigators received or were paid for more water than they enjoyed in any dry year since 1961. The Project got fully watered, but Lower Klamath refuge received only half the water needed for its marshes - places crucial to America's bald eagles.
Refuge marshes went without any deliveries for six straight weeks between June and August. This dried up wetlands, wiped out plants providing food and shelter for waterfowl, and spurred disease outbreaks. In 2004, Reclamation will again provide irrigators with more water than during any similar year since 1961, and Lower Klamath marshes are again slated to get less than half the water they need.
At Upper Klamath refuge, it's worse. From August until December 2003, Project demands left refuge marshes completely dewatered. This year, the refuge will stay waterless from September until January. Without water, it's a refuge in name only.
America's precious natural heritage - preserved on our wildlife refuges - shouldn't be sacrificed because Project irrigation doesn't know how to share. Voluntary, permanent water demand reduction represents a common-sense solution that's fair to everyone dependent upon the Klamath's natural resources, and will keep a spectacular legacy whole for our children.
The writer is policy analyst for the Oregon Natural Resources Council.
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