Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
Family Farm Alliance
Applauds Fish Declaration
The Family Farm Alliance yesterday stood by fishermen in an Oregon coastal port and thanked the Bush Administration and U.S. Senator Gordon Smith (OREGON) for efforts to declare a commercial fishery failure. The Alliance was part of a small agricultural delegation from the Klamath Basin that was asked to participate in a press event and meeting in Charleston between fishermen, farmers, senior level Bush Administration officials, and elected officials. Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez yesterday declared a commercial fishery failure for West Coast salmon fishermen this season from Cape Falcon (OREGON) to Point Sur (CALIFORNIA) due to low numbers of fish caused primarily by the drought.
THIS IS ONLY THE SECOND time in U.S. history that the commerce secretary has made such a declaration prior to the end of the fishing season. This declaration will pave the way for Congress to provide financial aid for West Coast salmon fishermen in Northern California and Oregon. Deputy Secretary of Commerce David Sampson and Dr. William Hogarth, director of NOAA Fisheries, traveled to the Oregon Coast with Senator Smith to personally deliver the message to commercial fishermen. "We stand by the commercial fishing industry and will do what we can to help them through this difficult time," said Sampson. "We heard their calls and acted quickly."
AFTER THE GROUP TOURED the harbor area, Senator
Smith convened a meeting during which 20 farmers,
fishermen, and local elected officials listened to
concerns and heard proposed solutions to the
challenges facing the Klamath River and the
producers who rely upon it. Dan Keppen (Alliance
Executive Director), Greg Addington (Klamath Water
Users Association Executive Director) and farmers
Dick and Jim Carleton participated in the meeting,
as did Klamath County Commissioner Bill Brown and
State Senator Doug Whitsett.
EARLIER IN THE DAY, Secretary Gutierrez, Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced the decision in a teleconference call with the national media. "I am pleased that our joint efforts between California and Oregon have resulted in a determination that will lead to federal relief for the salmon fishermen and the businesses that depend on a plentiful fishing season," said Schwarzenegger. The coastal salmon issue - characterized by most media accounts as a divisive "farmer vs. fishermen" issue - has been manipulated by certain environmental groups that place the blame for the fishery restrictions on irrigation and dams located on the Klamath River.
MEDIA COVERAGE SINCE MARCH has taken a very consistent and dominant anti-farming position, essentially accepting arguments made by environmentalists that Klamath Project operations (located hundreds of miles from the ocean) are responsible for the coastal crisis. Last spring, Dick Carleton decided to find out for himself whether the fishermen were as angry at the farmers as the newspapers and environmental groups were saying. His efforts, in part, to bring the two parties together over the past several months has led to increased trust and an emerging coalition that is beginning to be noticed by policy makers. "I am heartened by the support that inland farming communities, such as the Klamath Water Users Association, have given to the small rural fishing communities of coastal Oregon and California," Gutierrez said last month.
AT THE REQUEST OF OREGON COASTAL fishermen, the Family Farm Alliance in May sent a formal request to President Bush, asking for an emergency declaration to open up assistance for coastal producers. Other organizations in the agricultural region of the Klamath Basin, including county commissioners and the Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA), sent similar requests. Over the past several months, the Alliance and other Klamath farming representatives have met several times with coastal fishermen in an effort to better understand the issues faced by each party, and to work towards realistic solutions. "Farmers and fishermen are producers who want to work cooperatively toward real solutions," said Scott Boley, who operates Fishermen Direct in Gold Beach (Oregon). "Farmers and fishermen can co-exist, and we will co-exist."
THE FARMERS AND FISHERMEN PRESENT proposed
similar solutions, including the need to address
disease issues in the Klamath River, modernize and
expand hatchery operations, control seal lion
predation at the mouth of the Klamath, and increase
fish production in tributaries. Notably, both sides
advocated for increased flexibility of Klamath
Project operations, through regulatory measures and
the development of new offstream storage such as
Long Lake. "I truly believe that the farmers and
fishermen, once we put the facts on the table, can
find a viable solution to this," said Scott Cook, a
troller from Bandon (OREGON). "Everyone in the
country has been lead to believe that farmers and
fishermen are enemies. This message has been pushed
mostly by outside environmental groups in the
mainstream media, and I think our leaders are seeing
this. The policy makers want to solve the problem,
and I think they're tired of the misrepresentations
and the lawsuits coming from these groups." "The
media and public may have thought there was a
conflict between farmers and fishermen," added Jeff
Reeves, a commercial fisherman and the vice-chair of
the Oregon Salmon Commission. "I think those days
are long over, as far as we're concerned." "Without
the cooperation of the Klamath basin farmers and the
Family Farm Alliance, we most likely would not have
been heard by the federal officials," said Reeves.
"We tremendously appreciate your help. Without it,
we probably would have gotten nowhere."