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Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Guest commentary

Water settlements urgently need champions

  • Herald and News by JASON CHAPMAN, LUKE ROBISON, Klamath Project Farmers
    KBC NOTE: In a September 22 editorial, Pat Bushey, who supports the agreements, identified two additional writers of the commentary below: "a commentary by Klamath Project irrigators Jason, Chapman, Luke Robison, Gary Wright and Curt Mullis..." Gary Wright is a former president of Klamath Water Users Association. Curt Mullis was a lead employee of US Fish and Wildlife service for the Klamath Basin involved with endangered species, largely Klamath sucker fish which shut down the Klamath Project irrigation in 2001.

There may be some uncertainties about what would happen then, but the consequences would likely be adverse for agriculture and the economy of the Klamath Basin.

It is vital that our elected representatives in Washington act to support and pass legislation authorizing full implementation of the agreements.

A bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate, but a bill must move in the House of Representatives in order to have any chance of success. Specifically, we implore that Congressmen Greg Walden and Doug LaMalfa act with urgency to secure passage of this critical legislation. There is nothing more important to those who depend on the water resource.

Part of the struggle

These legislative leaders have been part of this struggle since even before those terrible days nearly 15 years ago when the federal government, acting under the authority of the Endangered Species Act, closed the headgates for the Klamath Project, dewatering more than 1,000 family farms and ranches.

They saw what this area and its people endured. They also know that the problems are complex and that we need solutions. They understand that there is a solution with broad-based local support on the table.

We know that they will listen and do the right thing; this is their opportunity to secure a lasting legacy as champions for irrigated agriculture and the people of the Klamath Basin they were elected to represent.

Management of water in the Klamath Basin is complicated, confusing and controversial no matter what perspective you have. Years of costly litigation, political partisanship, and severely divided communities dominated our past.

But recently, there has been a relatively peaceful period in the water wars. Political leaders told us to come up with a local solution to address the problems. A coalition formed among divergent interests in the Basin when each realized that maybe the “other side” deserved to be heard, and definitely was not going to go away. The result was the signing of the Klamath Settlement Agreements, whose purpose is to build secure communities rather than allow them to rip apart.

A sincere effort

The agreements are a sincere effort to share the resources and recognize the legitimate interests and needs of different basin communities.

Although not yet implemented, positive effects of the agreements are apparent by the lack of any current litigation between the signers — a dramatic change from the situation that once prevailed.

It is also telling that Project irrigators have not experienced anything resembling the disastrous involuntarily curtailments that tore into our community beginning on April 6, 2001. This is a direct benefit from the relationships formed while negotiating the agreements.

When implemented, the agreements will help manage the water more carefully, intelligently and peacefully for the long term.

The choice before us is to support the agreements or not: to act to preserve everyone’s way of life or to revert back to a never-ending, narrow, litigation-generating strategy that will act as a permanent wedge in our community. The right choice is obvious. We, and our elected leaders, need to support the Klamath Settlement Agreements.


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