Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
Migratory Bird Festival a Success
In 1908 this land was designated as wildlife refuges by Teddy Roosevelt; the second designated refuge in the United States. Klamath Basin has 6 refuges encompassing 190,000 acres. Tulelake refuge is 40,000 acres, Clear Lake 35,000, Bear Valley 5000, Klamath marsh 40,000, and Upper Klamath 30,000 acres. The two active colonies of pelicans that exist in California are on Lower Klamath and Clear Lake. A question was asked why Clear Lake was closed to the public. The answer was, it can only be accessed by USFWS personnel when banding the pelicans, or by hunters when killing the ducks and geese, because it is a sensitive area...............?
Then came the blow. With a tour bus of people from Eugene, Klamath and Mt. Shasta, questions were asked regarding the farmers and the water shut off.
A few years ago the headlines of the Herald and News local paper read, USFWS Wish List is to acquire farmland to end farming on refuges. We were recently beginning to hope that it was no longer their goal.
Back to the tour. When asked about the water situation, FWS tour guide Beckstrand told us that the Klamath Project was "too big". He said that the line-up for water was first the ESA (Endangered Species Act) water, then Tribal Trust, agriculture, and last, refuges. When asked what his solution was, he said he felt that the farmers should be bought out. When asked why, he said that there would be more water for other uses. I asked him, since wetlands use much more water than ag land sprinkling, how would eliminating farms provide more water? His answer was, it would leave more water for other uses.
Beckstrand did say that 3 1/2 Acre Feet of water evaporates from refuge water. Farm land uses approximately 2AF.
He continued to tell the group how the Bureau of Reclamation's water bank pays farmers to retire 75,000 acre feet of their water in 2004 for other uses. (this is supposedly voluntary...we farmers were told that if they did not provide this much water to send down the river and into Klamath Lake for downriver demands and lake levels, the Klamath Project could be again shut down.) He said that the water bank is a waste of money, and money should be spent buying out farmland. He could not understand why farmers would not support land buy-outs. I explained to him that if our land is bought out, then we would not be farmers. I also explained how this current mandatory water bank plans to downsize the Klamath Project by one quarter of our land and water. So when 25% of the Project is forced out of production, the economy of our entire agricultural area is cut 25%...businesses and services, tax base, schools.
The Klamath Water Users, Bureau of Reclamation, and community at large has been trying to find solutions to the current demands of artificially-elevated lake-level/river-flow management. They have gone to great research and expense to locate possible storage for these new demands that divert our basin's water. A tour guest asked about the new Long Lake proposal which would provide cold deep water for the down-river demands. Beckstrand said that this water would have to be provided from water that would normally come onto the refuges, thus depleting the refuge of water. This is contrary to what our community understood would come from the thousands of acre feet of snow run-off in the winter which has been sent to the ocean because we have no place to store it besides in the full refuges and Klamath Lake.
I told him that when we get irrigation water on our farms, it then goes into the refuge. Contrary to all of the USFWS studies and reports, he told the group that this water is laden with pesticides so much of it will not be going onto the refuges this fall. According to all of the studies and USFWS manager Ron Cole later in the day, pesticide restrictions prevent dangerous pesticide use and there is negligible pesticides in the water. It is not an issue.
Beckstrand went on to explain how their wetlands and lands devoid of farm crops supply the food for the waterfowl, another reason why land would be better if it were not farmed. When I said that much food for wildlife comes from the farms, he said that natural feed is better than grains because it provides more nutrition.
I explained that when our water was shut off in 2001, because there was no water for farms, our run-off was consequently not available to the refuges. So we irrigators pumped our untested aquifer to provide water for the wildlife. The tour-guide's remark was that farmers were paid with a tax break for their water. Wow, what a blow! Our farms dried up and died, we pumped to save the birds and refuges, yet this USFWS guide would not acknowledge our contribution!
Ph. D. Robert McLandress, UC Davis ecology. has stated that the farms in the basin provide food for 50% of the waterfowl in the basin, over 70 million tons. "There are 433 species of wildlife in the basin, and the biological opinion deals with 3." He also explains that the natural systems could not even provide half of that food. Go HERE FOR AUDIO.
Page Updated: Sunday August 31, 2014 12:37 PM Pacific
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