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Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Oregon Senator Doug Whitsett KFLS radio address 1/31/11

Environmental Advocacy groups destroying Klamath agriculture

"Four alleged environmental advocacy groups filed an Endangered Species Act petition to protect Klamath River Chinook salmon last Thursday. The petition, filed with the National Marine Fisheries Service,
seeks protection first and foremost for spring-run Chinook salmon in northern California and southern Oregon.

The Service has ninety days to examine the petition, and to either accept or reject its allegations. If the petition is accepted, the Service will conduct a year-long review to determine if the listing is warranted. In the event that the petition is granted, the National Marine Fisheries Service will be required to develop, and adopt, yet another Biological Opinion regulating flows in the Klamath River.

That Biological Opinion would undoubtedly require increased in-stream Klamath River flows during the spring months. That is the same season when the Upper Klamath Lake reservoir is being filled to provide water for spring and summer Klamath Project irrigation. Obviously, the reservoir cannot be filed if the spring run-off is diverted down the River for the benefit of spring Chinook.

The current National Marine Fisheries Service Biological Opinion requires increased seasonal flows in the Klamath River for the alleged benefit of the threatened Coho salmon. Moreover, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service Biological Opinions require that minimum Upper Klamath Lake levels be maintained for the alleged benefit of endangered sucker fish. M ore water is required than actually exists in most water years to satisfy the existing two Biological Opinions. Therefore, existing water management constraints require violation of the conditions of one, or the other, Biological Opinion.

This leaves no water for irrigation in the Klamath Project during normal water years, when the requirements of the two Biological Opinions are met. Implementation of a third Biological Opinion requiring even higher River flows in the spring would serve to insure that the Klamath Project irrigators would receive no water for irrigation during most if not all growing seasons.

The cause of the alleged water shortage is almost entirely man caused. The federal government, through its expanded use of the Endangered Species Act, has systematically changed the priority of water use from irrigation, to provide food and fiber to the people, to in-stream flows for the benefit of fish. The Project irrigators have watched helplessly as their century old Upper Klamath Lake reservoir has been rendered essentially worthless.

These federal government actions, taken under the authority of the Endangered Species Act, are exempt from the provisions of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement. Those actions are being initiated, and driven, by either affiliates of certain signatories to the KBRA, or by other environmental advocacy groups with similar goals. Even the state of California, through spokesman in their fish and game department, have indicated that the state may support the listing of the spring Chinook.

The Project irrigators’ water has been taken, largely without compensation, for an alleged more important public trust use---the preservation of fish. Their farmland is rendered virtually worthless without water to grow their crops. In fact, Oregon’s land use planning regulations prevent the landowners from using the land for any purpose other than growing crops.

Moreover, the irrigators may expect their ability to irrigate with groundwater to be curtailed by both state regulations preventing overuse of the resource, and by the increased cost of pumping groundwater. Oregon regulators are already refusing to permit new irrigation wells because they allege that the resource is already over appropriated. They base their claim on their assertion that the groundwater source is interconnected with the already fully appropriated surface water resource. The state officials continue to deny groundwater irrigation permits even though we are unable to find any Oregon statutory authority for their actions.

The groundwater resource will soon become economically unfeasible as electricity rates increase, and groundwater levels continue to fall, requiring water to be lifted further each year at greater expense.
The future use of groundwater for irrigation will be limited by either regulation, by economic reality or by both.

The goals of the environmental advocacy groups appear to be to remove irrigated agriculture from the Upper Klamath River Basin. An important part of that strategy has been to infiltrate the agricultural community, and to divide that community from within, by both advocacy and by the selective application of large sums of money.

Sadly, they are rapidly achieving that goal.

I believe that is time to recognize that folks such as Glen Spain, Craig Tucker and James Honey do not speak for the interests of either the irrigators, or the people, of the Upper Klamath Basin. Isn’t it time to recognize the obvious “divide and conquer” actions that are being used so successful in destroying both the unity, and the economies, of our communities? Why do we continue to extend credibility to these folks?

Our friends and neighbors are not our adversaries. Shouldn’t we be united in working against those forces that are working so diligently to destroy our agricultural livelihood?

In my opinion, our only hope for a viable future in the Upper Klamath Basin is to reunite, regain solidarity, and work against these forces."


 

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              Page Updated: Friday February 04, 2011 04:27 AM  Pacific


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