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Farmers, fishermen find common ground

June 5, 2006

Farmers and fishermen are at different ends of the Klamath River, but have major interests in common. Delegations representing the two ends of the river met about two weeks ago in Coos Bay, and met again Thursday in Klamath Falls.

Both groups use natural resources that rely on Klamath River water.

Both have been parties to lawsuits, either as plaintiffs or defendants.

Both have suffered because of problems with the Klamath River system.

In 2001, farmers on the Klamath Reclamation Project who rely on water from Upper Klamath Lake had the water cut off for a major part of the summer so it could be used to help fish in the lake and the Klamath River.

This year, commercial fishermen lost most of their livelihood when the federal government shut down commercial fishing along 700 miles of Oregon and California coast to protect salmon that spawn in the Klamath River. That move was triggered by three years of poor returns to the Klamath River. Since there is no way for commercial ocean fishermen to tell Klamath River salmon from other salmon, the shutdown was all-encompassing.

One subject to come up Thursday was the possible formation of an alliance of the groups and including sports fishermen and tribes, which could act on behalf of the groups in fishery matters.

The idea may have merit, especially since it encompasses a variety of people whose views in the past haven't always agreed. Such an organization whose science could stand up to scrutiny, could help find solutions, and would certainly help in removing artificial barriers that separate the people at the two ends of the river.

The problem itself is simple - there isn't enough water to meet all of the system's legal obligations - but incredibly hard to resolve. Communications among the river's stakeholders can help.

Editorial board

Pat Bushey wrote today's editorial, which represents the view of the Herald and News editorial board. 




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