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     The year in review

A look back at the stories we covered in 2004

Klamath Courier Staff Report Published 29 Dec. 04

MALIN - In the course of a year's worth of covering the people and events in Klamath Basin, several stories come to mind when we at the Klamath Courier have to decide which was the most important.

The criteria are pretty simple. We are looking for the story that meant the most to our readers, or created the largest impact on our communities. In the recaps that follow, we have selected two stories that best fit the criteria. Let us know what you think.


The rematch between the Tulelake Honkers and the Lost River Raiders girls' basketball teams went into double overtime before the Raiders scratched out a 50-46 win. Tulelake shot a measly 27 percent from the field while the Raiders weren't much better, shooting 37 percent. The game lasted more than three hours.

The Tulelake Irrigation District is awarded the annual Water Conservation title by the Mid Pacific Region Water Users at their conference in Reno, Nevada. We pointed out that as TID manager Earl Danosky was being handed the award, the flow at the mouth of the Klamath River was more than 40,000 cfs, more than double the 20,000 cfs average over a 66-year span.

The Floyd A. Boyd Company of Merrill was named as the John Deere Company's top dealer in windrowers, supplying 24 of the machines to local alfalfa farmers. "The dealer in second place wasn't even close," said Jake Barge of John Deere.


Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton announced that $3 million had been budgeted for the 2004 water bank. In 2003, the inaugural year for the program that everyone agrees does no good, the budget was $4.1 million for 50,000 acre/feet of water. The $3 million was to idle enough land to "save" 75,000 acre/feet.

The Van Brimmer Ditch Company celebrated their centennial this month. Unlike all other irrigation districts in the Klamath Project, this company has a contract guaranteeing delivery of water, as their water right was the first recorded in both Siskiyou County (1883) and Klamath County (1884).

David Campbell, a 2000 graduate of Tulelake High School, throws a no-hitter against Humboldt State. Campbell also hit a two-run double in the game for his team, Simpson College.

After a series of secret meetings between federal officials, irrigators, and the Klamath Tribes last fall. The Tri-County Courier obtained a copy of a survey handed out to Tribal members by the Tribe's Land and Water Negotiation Working Team. The survey found that nearly 80 percent of the 146 Tribal members responding wanted to restrict public hunting and fishing on the 672,000 acres the Tribe was seeking to return to reservation status.

Tulelake's Velma Hoyt held her 25th birthday on March 29. Yep, that's 100 in you-and-me years.

The Tri-County Courier picks Mike Nieraeth as the Southern Cascade Conference's Player of the Year in basketball. Not only does the SCL name him to the coveted position, Nieraeth in named to the 2A All State first-team.


A federal judge dismisses an appeal filed by environmental groups seeking to overturn a decision by federal judge Michael Hogan that hatchery fish and wild fish are indistinguishable genetically and must be counted together when measuring the recovery of stocks.

Bonanza's Lady Antlers bow out of the state basketball playoffs in Pendleton with two straight losses. Jessie Carpenter in named to the All Tournament team.

The boys from Bonanza went 1-2 at the state playoffs, losing to St. Mary's to close out their tournament and laying claim to a fifth place finish. As the teams shook hands St. Mary's coach Tim Pflug and Bonanza forward Mike Merkley hugged, and one of the 500 parents in attendance led a cheer for the SCL. Molly Blue, a sports reporter for the Oregonian, was stunned, and asked Pflug about it. "We have a classy league," said Pflug, who retired soon after.


The Tri-County Courier reports that, as happened in 2003, releases at Iron Gate Dam on the Klamath River are exceeding the releases called for in the Operations Plan. Irma Lagormarsino of NOAA Fisheries in Arcata is miffed we are bugging her about it, but these shenanigans in 2003 led to the infamous June 25 demand to shut don the Project in the middle of the growing season. This newspaper learned that Lagormarsino and Yurok Tribal biologists demanded that the Bureau of Reclamation increase spring releases in 2003, leading to the near disaster.

Tulelake's Winnie Oehlerich celebrates her 90th birthday, and we are there. Oehlerich, who taught English in Tulelake schools for more than 30 years, greeted more than 150 family and friends.

The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, a virulent litigant against the Project, claims to represent commercial fisherman along the entire western coast, from southern California to Alaska. This newspaper reports that the group has shrunk by half in the last five years, has no members in Alaska, no confirmed members in Washington State, and just one in Oregon, a conservation group based in Astoria. The PCFFA's membership numbers about a dozen members, all based near the San Francisco Bay area.

The Tulelake Future Business Leaders of America travels to Irvine, California and claims their third straight championship in as many years. Coach Matt Hartung said that most of the schools at the state competition had never heard of Tulelake before, yet added, "They know about us now!"


photo by Pat Ratliff -- Earl Danosky
In the first week of May, The Tri-County Courier reports that a Tulelake police officer has been placed on administrative leave following allegations of sexual activity with a Malin girl under the age of 18. The officer, married and a father, resigns a week later.

The Bureau of Reclamation begins buying groundwater from the Tulelake Irrigation District for $75 per acre/foot. Despite earlier claims that other irrigators would hold to the $75 figure, set by the Bureau's Dave Sabo in 2003, other well owners and irrigation groups go lower, the lowest a measly $17 per acre/foot. TID manager Earl Danosky refused to point fingers. "We aren't in the business of selling water," he said. The episode illustrates that if there is enough federal money floating around, there is no unity in the community.

Tulelake's Jessica Hemphill claimed the top All Around crown in North State Rodeo with four All Around titles and a single second-place finish in the exhaustive circuit.


The Lava Beds National Monument holds a grand opening of their new Visitor Center, and Nation Parks Director Fran Mainella is the keynote speaker. It is the first time a sitting director of the national parks visits the Lava Beds, and both the land and the speech given by Cindy Wright, a third-generation Basin resident, impress Mainella.

(Courier photo by Pat Ratliff)

In the fall of 2002, barely a year after unsubstantiated science was used to deny water to the Klamath Project for the first time in 97 years, Basin farmers heard of the plight of a group of ranchers in Trinidad, Colorado. Suffering through the third year of a natural drought, many were being forced to sell their breeding herds for pennies on the dollar. Despite their recent travails, Basin farmers donated more than 300 tons of alfalfa, and local businesses donated trucks and drivers to get the hay to Trinidad. On the receiving end, long-time rancher and friend of Colorado governors Stanley Barron was given the responsibility of deciding who got the feed and who did not. A veteran of World War II as a crewman on a B-17, Barron called this job "the toughest I've ever had." The Tri-County Courier reported Barron's passing this month at the age of 82.

Photographer and journalist Pat Ratliff travels to the Rainbow Gathering in the South Warner Mountains. His report is widely read here, although it may be a result of Ratliff's colorful history as much as his colorful photography.


Klamath Courier photo by Pat Ratliff
Bernie Weisgerber, chief ranger of the Doublehead District of the Modoc National Forest, retires after a 42-year career with the forest service. On the day Ratliff interviews Weisgerber, they respond to a wildfire. When they get there, Weisgerber finds his shovel is gone, a recent loan-out to a colleague, and Ratliff snaps a front page photo of the old fire dog stomping out flames with his boots.

A lightning-caused wildfire lights up the eastern flank of Sheepy Ridge next to Hill Road. Two employees of Staunton Farms, shovels in hand, are credited with holding up the fire's progress until firefighters arrive.

A field hearing of the House Resource Committee in held in Klamath Falls. The topic is reforming the Endangered Species Act. Through the din of histrionics outside the Ross Raglund, and the same tired arguments from some inside, Congressman John Doolittle of California impresses Project irrigators with his intelligent, pointed questions of federal bureaucrats. In the end, all parties agreed the ESA needs a peer review component.

Cale Lawrence, a key player for the Bonanza Antler's state playoff basketball squad, is severely injured when his small Toyota sports car slams into the back of a belly dump truck. As the town of Bonanza rallied around their SCL champion Antlers, they rally in support of Lawrence. Floods of visitors, letters and help showered Cale, helping him to return home just three months after the crash from Medford Providence Hospital.


Renegade biologists with California's Department of Fish and Game release a report citing that low flows were the cause of the deaths of 33,000 fish in the lower Klamath River in Sept. 2002. The report relies heavily on the discredited Hardy Phase Two Flow Study, because CDFG's Steve Turek weakly claims "it's the best information out there." The National Academy of Sciences disagreed.


The Tulelake High School soccer team beats Liberty Christian 8-0 in Tulelake to go to 8-0 on the season with four games remaining.

The Lost River Raiders blow up the Etna Lions 53-9 to open their 2004 campaign.

Klamath Courier photo by Kehn Gibson. Six of the seven combines that came together to harvest the last wheat cropplanted by Leroy Mauch, who passed away in July.
More than 30 friends and neighbors of Leroy Mauch, who passed away in July, gather at the Mauch homestead to harvest the last 200 acres of wheat grown by Leroy. Seven combines get the job done in less than three hours, and the Floyd A. Boyd Company supplies the lunch.

A wall of a spud shed belonging to Wong Potatoes gives way, spilling tons of fresh market Yukon Golds onto the ground. Quick work saves most of the spuds, and the wall is repaired a short time later.

Tulelake's Nick Macy places third at the Reno Air Races after winning it all in 2003.

The Lost River Raiders beat the Modoc Braves 33-7 to go to 2-0 on the season. They open league play with a 51-6 thrashing of the Glendale Pirates.

The Tulelake Honker soccer side tops Modoc 6-2, the first goals the Honkers have allowed all season while scoring 34 themselves.

The words "USA BUSH" cut into a field of standing wheat on the leases must be cut down, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife office says.


Farmer Ron Baley beats down the words "USA BUSH" that were cut into a wheat field farmed by his sons, Rick and Rod. His work disturbs about 150 white front geese feeding on the letter "B."
 (submitted photo)

The national office of Defenders of Wildlife issues a report listing the 10 most endangered refuges in the country, and the list includes the Lower Klamath and Tule Lake refuges. The error-filled report angers and confuses farmers, local Defender of Wildlife offices, and two first-time visitors to the refuges from the San Francisco Bay area.

 No. 2 An historical agreement is announced by Interior Secretary Gale Norton. Titled the Klamath River Watershed Coordination Agreement, it is signed by four Cabinet secretaries and the governors of California and Oregon. The agreement pledges that all relevant state and federal agencies will coordinate and communicate recovery actions along the entire Klamath watershed, and set "measurable outcomes" for their work. Twelve hours after Norton's announcement, President George W. Bush visits Medford on a campaign stop.

Two Merrill business owners, Robin King and Diane McKoen, are told by the Oregon Department of Transportation that a sign on McKoen's property is a violation and they could be fined as much as $100 per day. The women, whose good works need not be repeated here, refuse to bow down, and their story is spread to more than a million Oregon voters, who pass a property rights measure in 35 of Oregon's 36 counties.

The Tulelake Honkers complete an undefeated season, and enter the north state championships with a perfect 12-0 record. They complete the three game playoff series with wins over Redding Christian 4-0, Quincy 7-0, and finally a rematch with Redding Christian went the Honkers way 4-1.

Lost River beats a tough Chiloquin football team 21-14, and follows with a 35-13 win over St. Marys, a 37-8 thrashing of Cascade Christian, and finished with a 38-0 shutout of Riddle to post a 7-0 record going into November.


The Lost River Raiders complete an undefeated league season with two playoff level games, a 28-0 road win at Lakeview followed by their traditional rivalry game with Bonanza, a 31-6 Raider win. As SCL champs, the Raiders earn a bye in the state playoff's first round.

The story of Ben and Ericka DuVal warms the heart of Basin residents. Folks knew parts of the story, yet the telling the story from start to finish was informative to many. The story reaffirmed our communities' collective belief in the American way, as Ben and Ericka have overcome daunting obstacles with hard work and faith.

The Bonanza Antlers open the playoffs with a 26-14 win in Eugene against Monroe. The following week the No. 1 team in the state, Santiam Christian, 51-13, destroys them.

The Chiloquin Panthers, after securing second place in the SCL, wake up to late and fall to Bandon 40-0. Bandon goes on the final four and falls to Gold Beach 32-18 on Dec. 4.

A Marine from Merrill is awarded the Bronze Star with a gold "V" signifying valor in combat in the taking of Baghdad in 2003. Mario Cobian, a 1999 graduate of Lost River High School, would rather not have the attention. "I was just doing my job," he said.

Lost River opens the state playoffs with a 17-0 win over the defending champion Amity Warriors at Lost River. The Amity coach, Joel Magill, is certain the Raiders are not good enough to beat Santiam Christian, Vale, or Dayton. They close out November by traveling to Heppner to face the Mustangs. They go home with a 21-14 win.


A review of the process used by an obscure committee in awarding a $50,000 commission for a sculpture to celebrate Klamath Falls' centennial in 2005 finds the committee did not follow its own guidelines, and that some committee members as well as the Klamath Falls City Council were never told. Local artists were informed of the process through an email, said Erik Nobel, a bureaucrat in the city's planning department. The head of the Klamath Arts Council said he was never informed of the commission, and the president of the Klamath Art Association said she found out about the commission in an informal discussion just 23 days before the deadline. The $50,000 commission was awarded to an out-of-state artist who was allowed to resubmit part of his application. Even with the resubmission, which Nobel insists came before the deadline, the winning application still did not comply with the guidelines.

The Raiders go to Bend to play the Vale Bulldogs in the final four of the state playoffs. In what Raider coach Dennis Dunlea would later call their finest game of the season, the Raiders earn a chance at the championship with a 31-18 win, started with a masterful 99.5-yard drive for a touchdown that made the score 7-0.

Whether it is the foolishness or the negligence of Tulelake City Clerk Joe Cordonier, an unpaid $1,200 bill causes the city to operate without workmen's compensation insurance for nearly six weeks starting Oct. 19. Quick work by Mayor Iva Rodgers reinstates the insurance, yet essential city services are shut down for three days until she can do so.

Robert Nieraeth learned from his aunt, a survivor of a Japanese concentration camp, that hard work and honor are important. A teacher and basketball coach, Nieraeth was diagnosed with cancer and, because of a promise made to his son, is aiming at coaching the entire season this year for the Bonanza Antlers.

 NO. 1

Klamath Courier photo by Kehn Gibson. The Lost River Raiders go to greet their fans after claiming the 2004 Oregon State 2A Football championship witha 20-19 win over Gold Beach Dec. 10 in Eugene's Autzen Stadium.
In Autzen Stadium on a showery Friday night, the Lost River Raiders tip over a stunned Gold Beach Panther football team 20-19 by scoring 14 points in the third quarter. The win completes a journey for Danny Chin and Kraig Beasly, who both had older brothers on Lost River's 1997 championship team. The Beasly clan holds the edge over the Chins, though, as Bill Beasly also won a 2A football championship in 1958.

A game like this should not be encapsulated, yet a story about Autzen's goalposts quickly made the rounds after the game. Each team missed two extra point tries, and the Panthers' second attempt would have tied the game.

Afterwards, Gold Beach coach Kevin Swift told reporters he had been talked out of going for two points to win, yet contradicting that was a statement he made to his coaching staff while pacing beneath Autzen's goalposts.

"It those were high school regulation, that extra point would have been good," Swift said.

In checking with Brad Garrett of the Oregon School Athletic Association, Swift was incorrect.

Garrett said high school regulation goalposts are 23'6" wide, yet the rulebook expressly allows for variances for both wider and narrower goalposts, including college regulation goalposts of 18'6".





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