Bigger story to tell about Klamath levees
by Karl Scronce,
Guest Comment for Capital Press 11/9/07
Today Scronce is
supporting the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement/KBRA,
which supports the Endangered Species Act, permanently
retiring farmland, blowing up dikes establishing more
wetlands, larger government, and is campaigning to
become an Oregon Representative.
respond to the cover story in Capital Press, the Nov. 2 issue.
The story covered the blowing of a levee on Upper Klamath
Lake, which protected 2,500 acres of valuable, highly
Though Capital Press did a good job covering the story for
what it was on the outer shell, I am of the opinion that there
is a bigger story to tell.
The Klamath Basin and its vast, diverse agriculture and forest
regions have been under attack for many years by groups who
claim to be concerned about the environment.
As a youth in the '70s and early '80s in the Klamath area, I
saw the attack on the timber industry.
The attacker's final outcome of victory left what was once our
economic mainstay, a pile of sawdust.
Good paying jobs lost along with the services necessary to
create a wealthy economy and vibrant middle class. Though not
as great an economic force, but a massive contributor all the
same was agriculture.
Though we have a short growing season due to our high
elevation, the immigrants in this area were very resourceful
in determining what crops and livestock were best suited for
the Klamath area.
My grandfather ended up in Klamath after a long journey which
started in Europe and through Eastern United States. My father
started his journey west from North Carolina after World War
II. Though obviously at that time they didn't know each other,
they had one thing in common, as many others like them, and
that one driving connection was opportunity to pursue the
The entire necessary infrastructure was being built in the
first half of the century to produce and transport both
agriculture and timber products. Extremely important to this
Eastern Oregon desert region was irrigation water.
A series of levees and canals were planned that both
transported water and diked off new farmland that had
centuries of built up aquatic material.
This highly organic soil generated extremely fertile farmland.
The Klamath Project was soon developed and built that just
added to the opportunity abound. A term used today, "win-win"
would have applied to the participants at that time.
Take a giant step forward from those early days of development
and stop in the year 2001. Agriculture was being hit from all
sides in the Klamath Basin.
The weapon of choice was the Endangered Species Act with many
years of questionable biased science and some
"stretch-of-the-imagination" assumptions all pointing the
finger at agriculture.
The irrigation water was shut off to the federal irrigation
project that spring. The Klamath Project included farmland and
wildlife refuge lands.
I personally had land that was both in the federal project and
outside the boundaries of the shut-off area. The shutoff was a
devastating blow to my business that was already suffering
from some tough times in agriculture.
Every person and group who hated production agriculture,
farmers and the values for which they stood for, piled on in
every newspaper opinion piece and television show.
I was astonished by the number of these groups that existed
and the coordination with which they delivered their blows.
Though that year was shot from the standpoint of growing a
crop, the Klamath Bucket Brigade occurred that summer that
protested the water shut off.
It was estimated at more than 15,000 people in attendance.
People who understood rural values and independent life
As far as I was concerned, we were all one, with one goal in
mind, to right a wrong. We had more than a bucket full of
political and public support.
Unfortunately, all good things and the strength good things
possess are put to the test.
Today, we are at that point and the opposition to our rural
and independent lifestyle won a blow. And that blow literally
was real and I might add used ammonium nitrate and diesel in
blowing up the dike on Upper Klamath Lake.
I come from the school of personal property rights and
People working for their goals and dreams, which when all
pooled together, create the nation we all live, work, and
Today's world is different from my grandfather's era. Through
education, science, and observation we have perfected more
sustainable methods of production both in the farm and forest.
Limiting the environmental footprint and working lands can
coexist and is the correct direction for our nation.
I am extremely leery of these altruistic goals such as the
blowing up the dikes for wetland establishment. Retiring
farmland, only to have it potentially relocate in areas such
as Brazilian rainforests is poor public policy. We exist in a
global economy which involves actions and consequences beyond
The Nature Conservancy was the organization who took on this
wetland project. A look at The Nature Conservancy website and
a list of their board of directors doesn't exactly appear in
my mind to be a group of people who have devoted their lives
for the public good and the betterment of hard working
This kinder and gentler environmental group which actually
purchases the land they acquire, even has local board members
who are farmers.
Of course, they farm in an area not at this time on the hit
list for conversion to wetlands. It's a bucket brigade of self
interest on both the national level and local level.
Karl Scronce, of Klamath Falls, Ore., has an irrigated
wheat farm along Upper Klamath Lake. He is the 2007 chairman
of Oregonians for Food and Shelter and second vice president
of the National Association of Wheat Growers.