‘It’s uncertainty, in one word’
TAM MOORE Oregon Staff Writer
Klamath rancher Bill Kennedy stands by the Lost
River, where jousting over water storage and
scarce water supply has made for uncertain times
in the past five years. “It is a stressful
business to be in,” he says, “regardless if you
have a private source of water or just dryland
BONANZA, Ore. – Where Lost River breaks through
Harpold Gap, exiting the Langell Valley and
twisting south toward California, the sun hasn’t
come up yet on this February morning.
Bill Kennedy, who runs Lost River Ranch a bit
downstream from the gap, is out early to talk
about Klamath Basin farming before he heads to
town and a round of meetings. He’s more than a
spectator in Klamath water issues. Kennedy is
president of the Family Farm Alliance, the
advocacy group for Western irrigated agriculture.
Its mission is affordable irrigation water
supplies for farmers and ranchers.
Kennedy reflected on the past five years and what
it’s been like for him and his neighbors.
“It’s uncertainty, in one word,” he said. “The
uncertainty that goes with the management of the
water resource, especially when we get into this
single-species management. It’s uncertainty for us
“It’s also uncertainty for the wildlife that we
enjoy and that depend on the habitat that we
provide for them. That’s something that becomes
clearer and clearer every year.”
He worries that the Klamath Reclamation Project’s
100,000 acre foot water bank will dry up more than
25,000 acres to protect three species of fish
under Endangered Species Act protection at the
expense of other wildlife.
“That’s prime habitat for wildlife – 400 species
of wildlife, including some that are listed, the
bald eagle, for example,” he said.
He also sees irony that Klamath project, now in
its centennial year, is facing so much
“A group of really bright people had the foresight
of developing a project that would provide a
certainty of supply of water for them and for
wildlife,” he said.
“It also tied in with providing a certainty of
affordable power. And here we’re not only
re-examining the decisions, but we are ignoring
those decisions and that development – setting it
aside as something that’s not, that hasn’t been
wise and hasn’t been prudent.”
The uncertainty, added to the stress of farming in
general, has also caused some farmers to quit.
“There are a lot of people that leave the business
every year,” he said. “You see those people
leaving the business, and I think it is typical of
the Western United States. It is a stressful
business to be in regardless if you have a private
source of water or just dryland farming. It’s a
very stressful business to be in.”
He also sees uncertainty in the water forecast for
this growing season and how the water has been
managed in past years.
“It’s going to be a low year on the Lost River,
that’s for sure,” he said.
“The releases from storage will be very minimal.
One of the impacts we are reeling from is the
release of water in 2000. (The U.S. Bureau of)
Reclamation released, I think, 100,000 acre feet
from Clear Lake. It went right through this
Harpold Gap in the middle of August.
“We were scratching our heads then, and we are
still suffering from that. It will be a low flow.”
Groundwater will help the water situation, but
Kennedy still sees uncertainty ahead for his
neighbors and himself.
“There is a substantial amount of groundwater
(developed) in this area that will benefit the
species as well with return flows,” he said. “As
long as we don’t tighten things up so much that we
eliminate our return flows, I think we will have
some sort of flow through the Harpold Gap.”