Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Relationships strained by position
by JOEL ASCHBRENNER, Herald and News 5/22/11
For irrigators like Hyde, the $1.5 billion agreement drew a line in the dirt: KBRA supporters on one side, opponents on the other.
“There are brothers that are on opposite sides of the agreement in some cases,” said Greg Addington, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association.
Several Klamath Basin irrigators refused to comment on the contentious water settlement that has been the focus of debates, protests and even a countywide vote last November.
Tom Mallams, president of the Off-Project Water Users Association and a vocal KBRA opponent, said he thinks most Basin residents oppose the agreement.
“We have gotten a tremendous amount of support,” he said. “I can’t hardly go to town or anywhere without people saying, ‘Keep it up. We’re behind you 100 percent.’ And that’s how it’s been since day one.”
Mallams said he understands why KBRA supporters like Hyde may feel alienated or bullied for their views.
“Locally, I could see why they feel like that, because they are outnumbered,” he said.
Andy King, a Henley-area farmer, said he and all of his neighbors and friends agree the KBRA isn’t the answer to water issues in the Basin.
Matt Walter isn’t as lucky. He ranches above Upper Klamath Lake, where the KBRA has been more divisive.
“There are people that used to be friends that aren’t friends anymore and neighbors who are not neighborly anymore,” said Walter, president of the Upper Klamath Water Users Association and a KBRA proponent.
But a good water year, it seems, has the ability to help bridge some of the divides created by the KBRA.
Last summer, when drought left many farmers and ranchers with about half of their normal allocation of irrigation water, KBRA supporters and opponents organized rallies, petitioned government officials and recruited organizations to support their causes. As the growing season begins this year with full water allocations expected, the same vigor for promoting and protesting the agreement seems lacking.
“If we had a short water year and people were not going to receive irrigation water you would hear a lot more complaints and talk about the issue,” said Luther Horsely, a KBRA supporter who farms about 2,000 acres on the Klamath Project near Midland. “I think everybody is busy doing their jobs, running their operations.”
Page Updated: Tuesday May 24, 2011 02:46 AM Pacific
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