Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
Give someone the power to settle Basin's water issues
(This letter is followed by exerps from the Klamath Compact, submitted by Barbara Hall, Klamath Bucket Brigade.)
April 26, 2004 by Don Mausshardt
During the past few months I have read with great care the statements made about water in the Klamath Basin. It appears that there are three camps wanting a piece of the water supply in the Upper Klamath Basin: Those who want it for preservation, those who want it for special needs and those who would want to use the water to provide food and fiber.
Not all potential uses are in conflict. It is still noteworthy that most people are trying to resolve the issues concerning use of the waters in the Klamath Basin.
What has been useful for my own edification was to attempt to attend several of these different working group meetings to see what the members are thinking and what they are trying to do.
The most recent one I attended was the Klamath River Compact Commission meeting. I was both surprised and disappointed in what was being reported. It was good to see both states reporting on their efforts to work on their projects for the respective states. However, it was also troublesome to see that no one was attempting to accept a leadership role in seeking resolution of the myriad collective problems associated with the use of Basin waters. It was also a concern to see that the compact limits of authority were limited only to the Upper Basin.
The compact as originally established intended to assure that there would be sufficient water reserved for the beneficial uses in the Upper Basin. Unfortunately, they never dealt with the formal adjudication of the Klamath Basin water.
The allocation of water is a huge issue that has to be resolved or it appears that we will face year after year of stressful headlines concerning the availability of water. On March 8, the Herald and News headline said it all: "Summer water may be short."
If I were in the business and depended on the use of the water, this type of uncertainty could jeopardize my very existence. In business and in agriculture, you cannot afford to have too many factors that add risk to your operation. We have to keep in perspective that in the Upper Klamath Basin agriculture is one of the largest users. Some might even add it's also the largest target since it's very visible.
Look at country's foundations
In today's society, we need to think about the impacts and determine what is really essential. Let us go back in history and look at what was required to build this country and what was important. If we look at what experts call the foundations of our county, we see that it is essential that we be able to defend ourselves, feed ourselves and provide freedom for our citizens.
While political scientists may take exception with my brief description, it is, and has been, a basic understanding with which most of us have been raised. During World War lI, President Roosevelt was very adamant about our ability to sustain ourselves and not rely on outside sources to maintain our country. The period between 1950 and the 1990s saw a growth that allowed this country to become one of the world's leading exporters of food products. At the same time we saw a decline in the number of farms producing, but with an increase in demand for our farm products.
Presently we are totally dependent on Canada for our natural gas - just imagine if it were someone else. We have seen the Panama Canal go from U.S. control to being operated and controlled by the People's Republic of China.
We are now at a crossroads as a country where we are seeing the loss of technology-related jobs going overseas, and the dependence upon others to supply us with cars, televisions and other material items. Can we afford to lose farmlands, and export that basic commodity, food production, overseas?
It isn't the size of the Klamath Basin issue that makes or breaks this issue, but it is the precedence of this issue that will impact all of us in the next 20 to 30 years. One might question where we draw the line. Shouldn't one of our national goals be to ensure that we do not lose the ability to feed ourselves?
It is now time to say we really need to look at what are our national interests and let common sense rule rather than allow factions with their own set of values to determine the direction we head over the next decade. It is apparent that we need to look at the big picture, and determine the real priorities and what is essential to keep those basic fundamental tenets that keep America strong.
This perspective is needed by all the decision-makers in attempting to resolve issues and settle the question about the use of water in the Klamath Basin. To hide behind the argument that it's not really in our charter, or that we can deal with only part of the Basin, not the entire river system, is really a cop-out. To also say the law will allow us to do only the following when it makes little sense leaves me wondering who really built this country and was this their legacy to us?
How much longer can we wait?
This revelation was truly amazing since this issue has been known to exist for many years and yet nothing has been done to deal with the lack of allocation or adjudication of the waters of the Klamath Basin.
How much longer can we afford to continue with this uncertainty and lack of resolution?The Oregon representative to the Klamath River Compact Commission was surprised to see that this compact was the first one he has served on that has not dealt with the allocation of water.
There are lots of quasi-governmental groups discussing and trying to sort out issues, but really it's unsolvable until some group receives the authority to deal basinwide with the waters of the entire Klamath River system. We need to insist that there be an entity created that has the authority to assume leadership and settle the water questions here in the Klamath Basin.
The charter of this entity should have the authority to look at exports, uses, allocation and potential future uses of the waters. In addition, the authority of the entity must be binding and cover the entire Basin from the headwaters to the ocean.
Barbara Hall, Klamath Bucket Brigade, sent the following in response to the previous letter: "Klamath River Compact Commission needs to read the Compact and see that it does deal with the allocation of water in Article 1 - Purposes:"
The major purposes of this compact are, with respect to the water resources of the Klamath River Basin:
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