Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
To: The Jackson County Board of Commissioners
from: Greg Addington, Klamath Water Users Association
Followed by letter to Jackson Commissioners by Bill Meyer, 1/12/10
Date: January 16, 2010 RE: Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement
My name is Greg Addington. I am the Executive Director of the Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) in Klamath County. I grew up and resided for many years in the Rouge Valley, specifically the Eagle Point area. Prior to moving to the Klamath Basin I worked in Southern Oregon for the Oregon Farm Bureau where I spent much time involved with the Jackson County Farm Bureau, Jackson County Cattlemen*s Association, the Fruit Growers League and others. I also served on the Jackson County Natural Resource Advisory Committee from 1999-2001. I consider the Rogue Valley my home and have many friends directly involved in irrigated agriculture there.
KWUA is a non-profit membership organization whose representation encompasses over 175,000 acres of land within the boundaries of the United States Bureau of Reclamation*s *Klamath Project*. Our members include public and private water delivery entities (irrigation and drainage districts) and individuals who have water delivery contracts with the Bureau of Reclamation. These entities, located on both sides of the Oregon/California border, represent over 1200 family farms and ranches.
As you know these family farms and ranches (associated with the Reclamation Project) are the ones who were devastated in 2001 by the federal government*s decision to not allow water deliveries to Klamath Project agriculture in order to *protect* Federally listed species in Upper Klamath Lake and the Klamath River. Since that time we have faced varying degrees of crisis related to water supply in virtually every year. In fact, the water supply outlook for Project irrigators for 2010 looks to be ominous at best.
KWUA made the decision to meaningfully engage in negations on a complex set of topics regarding the ESA, state water rights, energy and habitat issues among others, in order to try and seek a better alternative and more promising future. For the last 4 years we have worked with more than 20 diverse parties (most of whom have a lot to do with our ability to irrigate) in order to create a comprehensive settlement known now as the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA).
I write today to address a troubling rumor that I believe you are hearing regarding the proposed KBRA and its relationship to the water that is legally diverted, stored and used in the Rogue Valley.
The KBRA is necessarily complex and covers a wide range of topics. What it does NOT do however, is change, alter or negatively impact water supplies to the Rogue Valley. The KBRA makes NO MENTION of Rogue Valley water * representatives from KWUA and Klamath Irrigation District have been in regular contact with most of the Rogue Valley irrigation districts on this topic. We have had meetings with Talent Irrigation District, Rogue River Valley Irrigation District, Medford Irrigation District and representatives from Bear Creek Corporation/Harry and David about this issue. It is true that a previous draft of the agreement did mention* Rogue diversions*, but only from the perspective of maintaining an overly thorough *inventory* of where water that originates in the Klamath system ends up. However, at the request of the Rogue Valley districts (about two years ago), we along with the state of Oregon sought - and all other settlement parties agreed - to remove that particular reference and make no mention of the Rogue Valley or any water used there. I would encourage you to ask those propagating this position to cite specific passages in the document that cause them concern on this issue. I personally would be eager to know what they are.
Again, the KBRA does not affect water that is diverted by the Rogue Valley irrigators/districts. The Rogue Valley Districts do have ongoing issues associated with that particular block of water from a state water Adjudication standpoint (as do others including Klamath Project Irrigators), but that reality is true with or without the KBRA. Again, the KBRA changes nothing with respect to the Rogue water situation. I encourage you to talk with Jim Pendleton, Talent Irrigation District or Leigh Johnson from Bear Creek Corporation.
The rumors regarding this issue (and several others) are unfortunate and appear to be coming from a group of irrigators (not associated with the Klamath Reclamation Project) known as *off-Project* irrigators, who are also subject to Oregon*s Klamath Basin adjudication. As you may know, under Oregon law, regulation of water and water right priorities cannot occur until the state issues a final order of determination in the adjudication process. In 2001 off-project irrigators, many of whom have water right claims junior to the Klamath Project (and who are mostly located along tributaries to Upper Klamath Lake), had full uninterrupted water deliveries. While their neighbors in the Klamath Project, were shut down completely. We don*t begrudge this community for taking advantage of the situation, but it is a factor in the complexity and contentiousness in the Basin. As a result, I believe some of those individuals located *above* where the Project diverts water, have the impression that the status quo is okay. My members obviously do not share that philosophy.
Some individuals from this off project community have been part of multiple negotiations and have been unable to settle water right issues with the Klamath Tribes or the Klamath Project. I believe that many of these people feel (unnecessarily) threatened by the idea that the Project irrigators and the Tribes have, have, through the KBRA, reached a tentative resolution on these contentious water issues. Such settlement will provide a more reliable supply of water for the rural based economy in this area. Additionally some, but certainly not all, in this off project community seem to also believe that the KBRA somehow dictates or controls the adjudication outcome. This is also untrue. Two weeks ago a judge denied the claim from some off project irrigators that this agreement in anyway affects their rights or their right to due process.
The agreement itself does not compel anyone to do anything they don*t want to do. It is based on voluntary market driven considerations. If an individual chooses not to participate, they don*t have to. And as mentioned previously, the agreement preserves the rights and ability for those *off project* irrigators not in agreement to continue their litigation regarding water rights in the state adjudication if that is their path of choice.
There is much more information I could provide and I would extend the offer to visit with any of you at anytime regarding the proposed agreement. You should also be aware that there exists a newly formed group representing off-project irrigators who have markedly different point of view than the individuals mentioned above. This new organization is the Upper Klamath Water Users Association and I would be happy to put you in touch with them as well.
Lastly, I have attached a document describing the guiding
principles adopted and approved by the KWUA Board of Directors.
You can find additional information about the agreements on our
website atwww.kwua.org . Please don*t hesitate to contact me if I
can be of any help.
Good Morning Commissioners,
Page Updated: Wednesday January 20, 2010 02:41 AM Pacific
Copyright © klamathbasincrisis.org, 2009, All Rights Reserved