Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
Declaration by Senator Doug Whitsett, Oregon
For the past several weeks, a number of Upper Klamath Basin farmers and political leaders have been working with the Oregon coastal fishermen to encourage our federal government to declare a fishery disaster on the Southern Oregon Coast.
Last Thursday Senator Gordon Smith made that announcement in the Port of Charleston. By invoking the Magnuson Stevens Act the fishers are now eligible to receive any disaster relief that Congress may provide.
I was privileged to be asked by Senator Smith to participate in that announcement. Along with County Commissioner Bill Brown and representatives of the Basin irrigators I participated in a two hour discussion with the Senator, the Deputy Secretary of Commerce David Sampson, and the Deputy Secretary of NOAA fishery Bill Hogarth regarding what caused the current situation.
We explained to the federal officials that this year the coastal fishers are facing a perfect regulatory storm much like the perfect regulatory storm that shut down irrigation of the Klamath Project in 2001. The fishers are being forced to bear the entire burden caused by failed salmon hatchery management, failed management of sea lion predation, failed management of salmon diseases in the Lower Klamath River, failed management of off shore ocean trawlers licensed by NOAA, and most egregiously, the specious definition of what is a “real” salmon.
We explained that the true cause of the problem is unaccountable management of the fishery resource by our own government agencies that largely ignores evidence based practices. We pointed out that the Biological Opinions that continue to stifle Klamath agriculture are salient examples of ignoring evidence based practices. Both Biological Opinions require management that actually harm the fish according to unambiguous statements by the National Research Council made four years ago.
The combined message of the fishers and farmers was clear. Those who actually use our natural resources are most qualified to make natural resource management decisions.
The alliance between farmers and fishers that we have created has already begun to achieve results. We now must enlarge that coalition to include foresters and miners. The combined voices of all natural resource based industries can be effective.