Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
The Bee’s August 16 editorial, Klamath Soup, was irresponsible. Residents of the Upper Klamath Basin are becoming numb to agenda-driven rhetoric. However, this latest accusation directed at Klamath Basin farmers deserves a response.
The Bee Editorial attempts to connect Klamath Project agriculture to the toxic algae blooms behind hydroelectric reservoirs on the Klamath River. It alleges that “In the Klamath, fertilizers from farms on the Oregon-California boarder flow downstream”. The Bee is making claims that it can not substantiate.
Upper Klamath Lake is, and has long been, a naturally eutrophic body of water. Webster’s dictionary defines eutrophic as: “a body of water characterized by a high level of plant nutrients, with correspondingly high primary productivity”. The naturally warm and shallow lake is in this state prior to one drop of water being diverted for the production of food and fiber within the Reclamation Project. Upper Klamath Lake’s water quality problems are a major issue for the entire Klamath River Basin, but they are not caused by irrigation in the Klamath Project.
In 1995, a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation provided funding for a U.C. Davis study, An Assessment of the Effects of Agriculture on Water Quality in the Tulelake Region of California. The study analyzed the effects of agriculture on water quality in the Klamath Basin. It noted that the irrigation water from Upper Klamath Lake is naturally rich in phosphorus (a factor in algae blooms) and that it was unlikely that irrigated agriculture contributes phosphorus loads in amounts that would alter the natural state of the river.
Two National Fish and Wildlife Refuges ultimately use this same water prior to it returning to the river. This water receives more than its share of scrutiny. An intensive monitoring effort conducted by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the United States Geological Survey determined that no pesticides or fertilizers in use by irrigators have been detected in amounts of toxicological significance in waters of the irrigation districts or the wildlife refuges.
Finally, the editorial links all of this with the relicensing of the Klamath River hydroelectric dams. It notes that this is a contentious process with much finger-pointing. For perhaps the first time ever, Tribes, irrigators and other stakeholders are genuinely working together trying to find solutions to some very complex issues. Inaccurate simplification and finger-pointing from the Bee will not help us achieve solutions. Quite the contrary.
Editorial: Klamath soup
August 16, 2006