Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
Klamath Irrigators and Commercial
Fishermen –The Adversary
Klamath Courier Report May 11, 2005
Klamath irrigators and coastal fishermen have a story to tell that you have not heard before regarding the Klamath water crisis.
From what you read in the newspapers regarding the Klamath water crisis, you’d think fishermen and farmers are bitter enemies, fighting over every drop of water in the Klamath River. It isn’t true. And what’s more, they realize that they have common enemies who are doing everything in their power to keep farmers and fishers from talking.
Klamath Water Users representative Steve Kandra, and members of the Oregon Trollers Association, along with other commercial salmon fishermen, met and formed an agreement to work together on problems with the Klamath River System, according to an OTA April first press release. Both the irrigators and fishermen are paying the price for the forecasted small returns of this year’s four-year-old run of fall Chinook salmon.
With the largest runs of Chinook salmon in 50-60 years being forecast for ocean harvest, commercial salmon trollers of California and Oregon are being held off the water so as not to impact the Klamath.
The irrigators are also being made to pay the price, with irrigation water in short supply due to drought conditions and endangered species restrictions.
Past director of Klamath Water Users, James Moore (OTA), chaired the meeting which helped minimize misinformation and provide common ground to form a coalition to work on river flows, salmon habitat restoration, environmental impacts, biological opinions and co-management procedures.
Farming and fishing communities are both dealing with regulations that are tearing apart the foundations of both industries. Both groups agreed that solutions to Klamath system problems must come from all the impacted user groups.
The press release states, "The Oregon Trollers Association, Inc. (OTA) is not affiliated with the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association (PCFFA). The PCFFA does not represent the majority of Oregon and California Troll Fishermen, nor does anyone they have appointed. We the OTA do not share their views pertaining to Fish and Water management in the Pacific Northwest."
Who is PCFFA?
Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations (PCFFA) claims to be "the largest and most politically active trade association of commercial fishermen on the West Coast."
PCFFA represents zero fishermen’s associations in Oregon, and only a few in California. Glen Spain, Eugene attorney, is PCFFA’s northwest regional director. Their executive director is Zeke Grader, San Francisco.
PCFFA launched the original lawsuit against US Bureau of Reclamation and National Marine Fishery Service regarding Klamath Project operations, and recently joined a lawsuit to prevent irrigators from being compensated for the 2001 water shut-off.
James L Moore, farmer and fisherman
James L Moore was Director of Klamath Water Users while farmers were battling attacks by outsiders trying to take their stored irrigation water. As his wife describes it, he had to get away, but he ended up "stepping out of the frying pan and into the fire."
Moore said, "We lost 60% of our season, June, July, and August. They’ve got us curtailed off the ocean. National Marine Fisheries Service are up to the same stuff, false numbers and false science."
Moore explained that the ocean is a mysterious thing. They had a small fish return last summer on Klamath, but record runs up and down the coast."
Facts about the Klamath Project, and the flat-out lies from PCFFA
Moore understands that Klamath Basin used to be a huge lake, mostly in a closed basin, before the water was rerouted for irrigation. In wet years, some water went down the Klamath River. However in many years, no water left the Klamath Basin to go into the river.
The Klamath Project creates artificially-elevated lake levels and river flows that were not possible before the project was built. The irrigators paid for this project which allows more water for fish, farms, and cheap power.
A week after the Oregon Trollers’ press release came out saying they do not support PCFFA, Spain and Grader sent a letter to the trollers April 12th which read, "the leadership of the Klamath Water User's Association (KWUA) do not care about fish -- they care about making sure they have all the irrigation water they want, and the fish be damned….In the end, the majority of water that originally flowed out of the Upper Basin to feed salmon fisheries has now been diverted to feed irrigated agriculture. Naturally the river runs very low as a result."
One would think, from reading the letter, that irrigators take water out of the Klamath River instead of their storage, and that irrigators have somehow caused the river to be lower since the irrigation project was built.
Moore and the fishermen realize that the Klamath irrigators have done millions of dollars worth of conservation and riparian projects within and outside of the Klamath Project. They have won numerous awards for their irrigation efficiency and added water to the river.
Farms provide over 50% of the feed for the
basin’s 489 species of wildlife. Bill Gaines from
California Waterfowl Association says that farms are
the solution to the problems, not the cause of the
problems. California Congressman John Doolittle
stated that if they buy out the farms, then the
government will have to use taxpayers’ money to grow
crops to feed the wildlife. That concept is already
being proposed in Central Oregon rather than having
private family farmers grow the crops.
PCFFA says the mandatory 100,000 acre-feet water bank imposed upon the basin farmers is a must. This de-waters farms and depletes the aquifer by five feet per year to dump the groundwater and stored water into the ocean to create higher-than-historic water levels in the river. So the irrigators have had to downsize their farming which downsizes their economy by one-third. The biological opinions still being used were deemed flawed by the National Academy of Science and also the court of law which ruled that artificially-elevated river flows will not fix fish problems.
ONRC and PCFFA constantly blame irrigators for the 2002 fish die-off near the ocean, even though the National Academy of Science and a federal judge ruled that it was not related to the irrigation project.
The PCFFA letter went on about "… distorted federal water policies that write off whole coastal fishing communities and destroy thousands of fishermen's jobs to provide ever more irrigation water in a desert."
How could a lake of thousands of acres, at some places up to 30 feet deep, then rerouted, be called a ‘desert?"
Why did the trollers send this letter from PCFFA to the farmers?
It infuriated them that Grader and Spain can get away with decimating the fishing and farm communities in the guise of helping fishermen and fish. Currently many fishing seasons have been shut down for ‘projected’ small runs, with PCFFA blaming Klamath Irrigators.
How is it, in America, that a few individuals, backed with flat-out lies and huge agendas, are able to destroy American trades and communities which contribute food and resources that keep America alive?
The fishermen and farmers don’t think it’s too late to find solutions. They continue to talk in spite of their adversaries.
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM Pacific
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