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http://www.capitalpress.info/main.asp?Search=1&ArticleID=31062&SectionID=67&SubSectionID=&S=1
ODA honors farmer/fisherman effort

Groups recognized as Cooperators of Year

Mateusz Perkowski Capital Press March 16, 2006


Farmers and fishermen showed their unity at the Klamath Potato Festival in Merrill, Oregon last fall. The Oregon Department of Agriculture will recognize the two groups as Cooperators of the Year at the 2007 Ag Progress Awards Dinner in Salem on March 22.
Nothing inspires kinship like an ice chest filled with beer.

In March 2006, Newport, Ore., fisherman Bob Kemp said in an Associated Press article that he planned to throw some suds and crabs into a cooler and head down to the Klamath basin to meet with farmers and figure out what to do about diminished salmon returns in the Klamath River.

Kemp's show of goodwill snowballed into a collaborative relationship between farmers and fishermen whose livelihoods are tied to the fate of the Klamath waters. In honor of their efforts, the Oregon Department of Agriculture will recognize the two groups as Cooperators of the Year at the 2007 Ag Progress Awards Dinner in Salem on March 22.

"We're looking for solutions that keep everyone in business," said Scott Boley, a fisherman from Gold Beach, Ore., who will accept the award on behalf of the Oregon Salmon Commission.

After visiting back and forth informally, fishermen and farmers are now in the process of formally organizing as the Common Ground Alliance, a group that will represent natural resource interests and push for projects that benefit fish without harming agriculture.

"We found out we really have a lot in common," said Dick Carleton, a potato grower from Merrill, Ore., who will accept the award on behalf of Klamath basin farmers. "In order to fix things up so they can fish and we can farm, we can do some things cooperatively."

The group is still finalizing its bylaws, but it held an informational meeting in Newport in January and plans to reconvene in Crescent City, Calif., on March 24.

While they're focused on issues related to the Klamath River, Carleton said the Common Ground Alliance hopes someday to represent fishermen, farmers, tribes, miners, timberland owners and other natural resource industries throughout the West.

So far, they've found a number of measures that can boost fish populations in the Klamath without affecting farmers adversely. For one, the farmers and fishermen involved in the group agree that fish spawned at the Iron Gate Hatchery in California should be released in tributaries, rather than at the Iron Gate Dam, Carleton said.

The dam creates a perfect habitat for a polychaete worm that hosts ceratomyxa shasta, a parasite that attacks the fish intestinal system, said Boley.

"This parasite is endemic to the Klamath river," he said, noting that the Deschutes, Rogue and Willamette rivers are also affected. "It's probably the most serious parasite I know of for fish."

Carleton said they also support a proposal for deep water storage of about 350,000 to 500,000 acre feet of water at Long Lake near Klamath Falls, control of predators such as sea lions, and habitat restoration.

Early on in the partnership, Klamath area farmers feared fishermen harbored a great deal of anger against them, which turned out not to be the case, he said.

"There was a lot of misinformation," Carleton said, adding that environmental groups had an interest in promoting a rift that didn't truly exist.

Expecting synergy among farmers, fishermen and other groups is unrealistic, but the past year has proven they have more than enough in common to create solutions, said Boley. "We're not going to agree on everything, but we can identify things that we do agree on and promote those things," he said.
 

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