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Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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KWUA Significant Accomplishments, 2001-2004
KWUA 12/10/04


Federal Political Arena:

  • KWUA was the most vocal and engaged organization that advocated for 2002 Farm Bill funding that would help Klamath Basin farmers, not buy them out. The result: $50 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture EQIP funds that pay for 75% of improvements to help on-farm water use efficiency. Since 2002, over 800 applications have been submitted by Basin farmers and ranchers to use these funds.
  • KWUA helped write and advocate for federal legislation that earlier this year reimbursed Klamath Project irrigation districts $2.6 million for operations and maintenance funds paid in 2002, despite the curtailment of water deliveries.
  • KWUA has actively engaged in federal appropriations processes that have brought over $10 million into the Basin in the past three years to support a federally-conditioned environmental water bank.
  • KWUA, working with Rep. Doolittle (R-CA), developed legislation that will provide $25 million in Water Resources Development Act funds to help irrigation districts and local agencies implement projects to conserve and generate water.
  • KWUA has worked closely with the Klamath Basin congressional delegation to fund improvements that will protect imperiled fish species and lead towards recovery of these species. Key projects that have received funding in the past three years include the "A" Canal fish screen ($16 million), studies intended to improve fish passage at Chiloquin Dam, and development of a pilot project to aerate Upper Klamath Lake. Counting President Bush’s Fiscal Year 2005 budget request, in three years, federal agencies have committed over $260 million to address Klamath Basin resources issues.
  • KWUA has forged a strong relationship with the Bush Administration. In 2003, David Anderson, a senior White House environmental advisor, spoke at KWUA’s Annual Meeting. At this year’s annual meeting, President Bush personally sent a letter of commendation to KWUA that was read to the audience by Klamath County Commissioner Steve West.

State Political Arena

  • In Oregon, KWUA has worked with the Oregon Water Resources Congress repeatedly over the past five years to thwart proposed state legislation that would make it more difficult for Klamath Project irrigators to fully protect their water rights in the Klamath River adjudication process.
  • In the past two years, KWUA has developed a strong relationship with Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski, who has met directly with local water users three times in the past 18 months. In early 2003, the governor and his resources staff allowed Oregon to make its presence felt in the PCFFA, et al. v USBR, et al litigation by submitted an amicus brief to the court. He has clearly demonstrated a willingness to work towards a balanced program that reflects a "watershed-wide" approach to solving fisheries problems, rather than simply focusing on the Klamath Project.
  • In 2003, the Oregon Department of Agriculture recognized the proactive conservation efforts undertaken by local water users, and presented KWUA with its "Leadership in Conservation" award. The receipt of this award provided positive media coverage and injected some much-needed positive praise into our local community. Earlier this year, Gov. Kulongoski again recognized our association on the steps of the capitol in Salem.
  • Governor Kulongoski in July 2004 sent a strong message to our community when he appeared as the keynote speaker at the 50th Annual Meeting of KWUA in Klamath Falls. Before nearly 300 audience members, he reaffirmed his pledge to put a high priority on solving water problems of the Klamath Basin in a way that keeps agriculture going.
  • On the California side, we have worked aggressively to develop new relationships with the Schwarzenegger Administration. Earlier this year, the new California Resources Secretary and the regional director of the California Department of Fish and Game met directly with KWUA in Klamath Falls to discuss the need for a watershed-wide approach to solving our problems. In October, the "Klamath River Watershed Coordination Agreement" was signed by both governors and four Bush cabinet level secretaries that memorialized this philosophy. In 2002, former Assemblyman Dick Dickerson, who helped broker a deal with former Gov. Gray Davis to bring over $8 million in emergency assistance to Tulelake farmers in 2001, was a special guest of honor at KWUA’s annual meeting.

Legal Arena

In the recent past, there have been a number of lawsuits affecting the interests of the Klamath Project and the Upper Klamath Basin generally. KWUA has intervened in many of these cases. Importantly, due in large part to KWUA’s intervention in the 2003 PCFFA et al v. USBR et al case, Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong failed to find a linkage between Klamath Project operations and the 2002 die-off of salmon on the lower Klamath River. Had this occurred, serious restrictions may have been placed on future Klamath Project operations. Other cases where water user intervention has helped Klamath Project irrigators in recent legal decisions:

  • Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman’s Associations, et al. v. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and National Marine Fisheries Service, The plaintiff environmental organizations brought suit in April of 2002 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, claiming that the Bureau of Reclamation was in procedural violation of the Endangered Species Act with respect to coho salmon. They sought a temporary restraining order that would preclude irrigation diversions if certain Klamath flows were not met. The application for temporary restraining order was denied on May 3, 2002.
  • Oregon Natural Resources Council, et al. v. Keys, et al. Federal agencies have historically obtained ESA biological opinions and incidental take authorization concerning various activities within the Klamath Project. The activities include authorizing use of aquatic herbicides, and pesticide use on lease lands. In this case, the plaintiffs sought an order enjoining both the use of aquatic herbicides (acrolein) throughout the Klamath Project and the use of copper-containing pesticides on the lease lands. The U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon upheld the magistrate judge’s findings, and adopted the latter recommendation to completely dismiss the case. On July 1, 2004, the District Court entered final judgment dismissing the case.

Communications and Outreach

During the 2001 water crisis, local water users and the agricultural business community developed strong media and public relations that have carried over to the present. Important steps were taken to improve media and public outreach in 2003:

  • Tours: KWUA members played an important part in hosting several tours of the Klamath Project in the past year. Educators from Yale University, Humboldt State, University of Oregon, Western Washington College all traveled to Klamath Falls in 2003 to tour the Klamath Project. KWUA also participated in a tour conducted by the Klamath Soil and Water Conservation District for conservationists and state elected officials from Arkansas.
  • Water users made great progress strengthening relationships with coastal fishermen, irrigators in the Scott and Shasta Valley, Rogue Valley irrigators, and the Klamath Tribes, and participated in tours hosted by some of these groups. The Nature Conservancy provided local water users an opportunity to tour its Sycan Marsh property last summer.
  • KWUA’s Weekly Update was released in April of 2002, and has been distributed in electronic format every week since. Direct distribution of this update has increased in the past two years from a few hundred original subscribers to several thousand. Our friends in the water community like the Oregon Water Resources Congress, the National Water Resources Association, and Oregonians also distribute the Weekly Update for Food and Shelter.
  • This year, KWUA created its own stand-alone website: www.kwua.org, which is visited daily by Basin residents, as well as agency employees, stakeholders, and academics around the country.
  • KWUA has developed improved relations with newspaper writers and editors throughout the west. Opinion pieces have been printed in many papers, including The Oregonian, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and The New York Times. Klamath Project irrigators were quoted in 2003 in national newspapers like The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The Sacramento Bee.
  • KWUA has also contributed letters, articles or information included in a diverse range of publications, including Outside magazine, Mother Jones, Western Water, The Furrow, and California Ag Alert.
  • KWUA Board members, individual water users, and KWUA staff have appeared on national television telecasts, local television and radio, radio talk shows throughout the Pacific Northwest, and National Public Radio in the past year.

Public outreach was also an important part of 2003. KWUA participated in several community events, including two public meetings held at the Klamath County fairgrounds in February that collectively drew over 1,000 attendees. KWUA also delivered presentations to numerous local civic groups. Local water users, businessmen and consultants also participated in a truly remarkable number of panels at conferences throughout the West, including:

Agriculture / Water Associations: Association of California Water Agencies, Mid-Pacific Water Users, Tri-State Water Users, Oregon Water Resources Congress, American Water Resources Association, National Water Resources Association, and the Nevada Farm Bureau Federation.

Environmental and Water Law Conferences In: Seattle, Portland, Yosemite, San Francisco, Stanford University.

Other Seminars: University of California CVPIA Conference, U.S. Interior Department Water 2025 (Sacramento), 2003 Water Education Foundation Briefing on Water Law and Policy (San Diego), Cascade Earth Sciences (Klamath Falls), Yale School of Forestry (New Haven, CT), Univ. of Montana School of Law (Missoula).

Earlier this year, KWUA played a key coordinating role as the Klamath Basin hosted the U.S. House of Representatives Resources Committee field hearing in Klamath Falls, which drew five congressmen and over 700 attendees to the Ross Ragland Theater.


While KWUA reviews and prepares comments on dozens of agency reports, the association and its members also dedicated time and effort towards addressing the numerous other administrative and regulatory processes that confront local water users.

KWUA in 2003 released two reports prepared in the past year that address temperature, flow and habitat considerations on the Klamath River. One report specifically addresses the conditions before, during and after the unfortunate die-off of 33,000 fish on the lower Klamath River in 2002. The other study assesses important assumptions made in a controversial draft flow report developed by Dr. Thomas Hardy in 2001. David Vogel, a fisheries scientist with Natural Resource Scientists, Inc. authored both of the following reports:

Both reports were developed and used as a basis for testimony submitted by Vogel in PCFFA et al. v. USBR, et al. this past year.


Klamath Water Users Association
2455 Patterson Street, Suite 3
Klamath Falls, Oregon 97603
Phone (541) 883-6100
FAX   (541) 883-8893  

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Copyright © klamathbasincrisis.org, 2004, All Rights Reserved