Oregon Senator Doug Whitsett KFLS radio address 1/31/11
Environmental Advocacy groups destroying
"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
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. More 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
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
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