JULY 17, 2004

Mr. Chairman and members of the committee:

The Tulelake Growers Association is a non-profit organization founded in 1943. Our purpose is "To Promote and Maintain Successful Family Farms in the Klamath Basin." Association members are farm families and local businesses that support agriculture. All of us have a deep appreciation for the area where we have chosen to live. We seek to support and coexist with our abundant wildlife resources while maintaining a sustainable agricultural economy. Many association members have spent thousands of volunteer hours promoting these mutually consistent goals.

Agriculture is the solid base of economic stability and cultural lifestyle of this area. It has supported generations of family farmers, other families employed, local businesses, public agencies, schools and churches. It is a way of life that we know compares with no other. In its’ present form the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is being used to destroy American Agriculture and is causing irreparable harm to the rural communities of this great nation.

"Through the half century since the Klamath Project was completed, the Federal Government has invested about $15 million in construction of the project. During that same period this reclamation project has produced crops having an annual value of more than $250 million. Federal tax collections since 1940 have reached a cumulative total of about $100 million, or more than 6 times the cost of the Klamath Project.

Two hundred thousand acres of fertile land have been reclaimed from swamp and arid prairie. More than 1,400 farm families and the majority of local businesses derive an excellent livelihood from this reclamation project. About 44,000 acres of the 200,000 acres reclaimed were originally in the public domain. These public lands were dedicated to the most worthy purpose of assisting our war veterans. There has been no finer program provided by our federal government. Since 1922 settlement opportunities have been provided to more than 600 veterans of World Wars I and II. We believe there is no better place to recognize the admiration and respect earned by our World War I & II veterans than here in the Klamath Basin. This can be accomplished if our government honors its commitment to the veterans who homesteaded the Tulelake area of the Basin.

Although the accomplishments in the Klamath project area in the past half century have been great, there is still room for expansion, and even greater accomplishments are in store for this area in the future if full development of the water and land resource potential is effectively achieved through constructive changes in the ESA.

On May 16, 1957, Clair Engle, Chairman of the House Interior and Insular Affairs Committee made the following statement regarding the Klamath Project. "I believe that you will find this a very interesting study and another example showing that expenditures for our reclamation program constitute one of the nation’s wisest investments." That wise investment has provided over 6 billion dollars in farm products based on the value of today’s dollar.

Words cannot begin to describe the hardships endured by our communities. Farm families have lost income. Long-term commodity supply contracts have been terminated. Debts will not be paid. Dreams are being shattered. The loss is not only economic. It is a loss of our identity. There is no separation between our work and the rest of our lives. We are farmers and ranchers that are being regulated out of business because of the misinterpretation of an antiquated law.

The vast majority of the Basin’s Hispanic people are permanent residents of the area. These proud leaders and valued members of our community are inexorably linked to Basin agriculture. The 2001 Water Crisis resulted in the loss of numerous jobs and many families were forced to leave the area. It is tragic that we have lost our friends and neighbors that make up the Hispanic community.

How did we arrive at this deplorable and devastating outcome that destroys communities and provides no recognizable benefit for any of the endangered species? It is a product of the ESA that allows for corruption of the scientific process and a disproportionate focus on the Klamath Project.

Instead of being treated as having applicant status in both the Section 7 consultations for suckers and Coho salmon as we held in the development of the 1992 opinion for suckers we have been excluded from the salmon consultation and relegated to commenting on the sucker biological opinion after the fact. The Department of Interior has ignored two different sucker restoration plans developed by the Klamath Water Users Association in their preparation of biological assessments and opinions. They have ignored credible peer review including Oregon State University’s assessment of the sucker biological opinion that said the opinion was comprised of "illogical conclusions", "inconsistent and contradictory statements", "factual inaccuracies and rampant speculation". The review also stated that the document had the potential to severely damage the public credibility of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USF&WS).

Changes in the ESA must include accountability by the agencies that make assumptions and decisions that are not based on substantiated scientific data. Passage of H.R. 1662 that provides objective, outside peer review of data will create a real desire within the agencies to develop credible information.

Members of Congress and stakeholders continue to ask the same questions, but honest answers never seem to materialize. Why is the NAS Final report being ignored? When will the Draft Naturalized Flow Study be finalized and incorporated in the biological opinion on threatened c

Coho? If all the fish kills in Upper Klamath Lake have occurred at high water levels why is the average fish kill elevation the same as that prescribed as the minimum level in the biological opinion. If no fish kills have occurred at low levels why is the concern so heavily weighted that they may occur in the future? If the only viable year class of suckers recruited in the last ten years (1991) occurred in a low water year elevation 4138 why is that not recognized? If the healthiest sucker population with the most year classes occurs in Clear Lake where virtually no emergent vegetation exists why does the USF&WS insist that the relationship between emergent vegetation and lake levels in Upper Klamath Lake is so important? If fish kills on the Klamath River (including Coho) occurred in August of 1994, May and June of 2000 and May of 2001 when releases were being substantially augmented with water from Upper Klamath Lake and the temperature of that water was toxic to fish why does the National Marine Fisheries Service insist that more water regardless of its quality is better? Since fish returns (particularly Coho) were excellent in 1995 and 1996 following the lowest flows since Link River Dam was constructed why won’t the agencies acknowledge that other factors may have more influence than flows in the main stem Klamath below Iron Gate Dam? It is probable that these questions will never be answered if the ESA is not constructively changed.

The demand that the Klamath Project must burden all of the responsibility for providing lake levels, river flows and any other needs the agencies can dream up goes well beyond unfair, it has become ridiculous. The National Academy of Sciences Final Report determined that the Water Shutoff to the Klamath Project was "unjustified". We believe there is ample proof that the project was chosen years ago as an easy target to achieve an agenda developed by entities interested in eliminating agriculture in the Klamath Basin. The ESA continues to be a tool to realize this goal. Therefore, it is imperative that Congress pass legislation to prevent future abuse of this Act.

Agriculturists in the Klamath Basin have initiated or supported the creation of nearly 25,000 acres of wetlands that have changed from productive agricultural lands in private ownership to federal or conservancy ownership. We have supported appropriations for the refuges and collaborated with the California Waterfowl Association and Ducks Unlimited to improve wetland habitats. Unlike others we have never demanded all the water and never will. We support our fellow food producers in the commercial fishing industry and have focused our restoration efforts on improving water quality. These improvements, which have been well documented, provide the most positive impact on the fisheries relied upon by the commercial fleet and also improve conditions for endangered suckers as well as the trust resources of the downstream tribes.

In 2001 the devastated condition of the Klamath Basin not only included a $250 million loss of farm gate revenue and the risk of public safety related to wind and soil erosion, but the horrible degradation of 200,000 acres of habitat for hundreds of species living in the Klamath Project. How can we justify the elimination of this habitat in the name of single species management in Upper Klamath Lake when that management does not benefit the questionably listed endangered suckers species.

Our primary concern regarding this entire issue is that not a single action has been taken by the Department of Interior to prevent us from being in this identical situation every year. Long-term solutions must be addressed by the federal agencies that are required to comply with the ESA. To accomplish these goals the ESA should provide flexibility that will indeed protect species, but incorporate the need for viable economic conditions.

The modification of the ESA is essential if American farmers are to have the ability to provide a safe domestic food supply.

KBC Home            TGA Home