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Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Tribal member Philip Jackson on Klamath Refuges, remembering olden days.
Klamath Project Irrigators lead Klamath Tribes and Upper Basin Irrigators through the Project.  The guests saw federal and local projects, heard about local solutions being ignored with  unintended consequences, and saw other local solutions being successfully implemented.  They listened.......and they learned. Everyone spoke from their hearts. The mood was 'hope'.
Go HERE for tour, questions, successes, solutions, and quotes

Klamath Project Irrigators lead Klamath Tribes and Upper Basin Irrigators through the Project.  The guests saw,  they listened.......and they learned. Everyone spoke from their hearts. The mood was 'hope'.

KBC  9/26/03 

"We are not negotiating or having settlement discussions.  We don't want any more litigation or press battles.  We want to present what we are doing in the Klamath Project."

Dan Keppen, Klamath Water Users executive director,  opened the tour with a brief introduction at the Shilo Inn, where over 30 tribal members and irrigators met to share their day. 

Allan Foreman, leader of the Klamath Tribes, said that this was a historic event.... people on the ground level getting to know each other . brought together by common concern: resources, watershed, and most important, the livelihoods of people.  "We're all one people in this basin and its really important that we help each other and take care of each other." Becky Hyde, Upper Basin irrigator, expressed the same sentiments.

John Crawford quoted Jeff Mitchell, Klamath tribes, as saying, "We don't know what this looks like if we're successful, but we know what it looks like if we fail."  Then he continued with facts that he wanted to share:

Before the lake was drained for farmland, Tulelake and Lower Klamath were up to 40' deep.   A railroad was built that cut off water from flowing back into the lake.  "The water we use today beneficially to irrigate crops in the Klamath Project, plus the water that goes to the refuges, year to year, is less water than mother nature evaporated from this system before the Klamath Project was superimposed on these lands.  The net result of superimposing the Project on these lands is an increase in flows in the Klamath River.  We use between 3 and 500,000 AF of water, and at the same time, mother nature was evaporating between 4 and 600,000 AF."

"We're still one of the only places in America that corporate farming has not gotten a foothold. Farms that are there are family farms..."

John Crawford, Tulelake farmer

"There is somebody out there taking a water quality sample every day of the year for some purpose or another.  I think we've proved...that the water that we pump back to the Klamath River or the water we pump into the wildlife refuges is at least of equal quality or better that when we got it.  It's not good quality where we withdraw it at A Canal or the Diversion channel."

Steve Kandra, basin farmer, showed us the $14 million fish screen that was built in 7 months, and explained basically how it works.  "We are thankful that we had an administration and the support of the community and political bodies that said, "let's go get this thing done...lets start picking these things off, lets start addressing these things."  We are also planning to renovate the tunnel through Sheepy Ridge that takes water from the refuges and returns it to LK (lower Klamath) refuges.  "That's going to be a couple million bucks...that's coming out of the water users' pockets).

Jeff Kardon, BOR's Klamath fish passage program manager, described the actions of the Klamath Basin fish entrainment and passage committee, consisting of agencies, tribes and water users.  This is a collaborative effort using this basins tech committee, that deals with federally-owned sites.  For more information on individual projects and evaluations, contact Mr. Kardon in the Klamath Office.

On the bus ride to Olene, East of Klamath Falls, Keppen told about KWUA's beginnings, its board, ESA, flow and lake levels, and BO's,  "Basically the project gets what's left over, and the refuges get what's left over from that."  The water users had 50 meetings, with thousands of hours spent forming a locally-driven water bank that everyone could have lived with, that would have provided ground water and land idling in dry years (really dry like in '92, not 'politically dry like in 2001 and 2003).

Then the National Marine fisheries downsized the project, increasing idled land by 25,000 AF per year, regardless of water levels. So in 5 years they will have forced us to downsize 100,000AF of water.  Things are happening now that we warned them about in our documents. Irrigators were paid $185/acre for idling their land

Keppen continued that the Project is 92% efficient.  All water not consumptively used is reused up to 7 more times in the system.  Someone asked how much Rangeland Trust was paid for their water leasing in the Upper Basin, compensated by the government, and Michael Milstein, Oregonian, responded that it was $300/acre, based on 5 AF/acre that they claim the irrigated pastures used. Some of the value was for access for research, done by owner Jim Root's daughter, a biologist.

Because we had a wet spring, the BOR shut off our water briefly, so other water users had to pump their own wells  TID pumped 17,000 AF, and other irrigators pumped probably that much in addition with no compensation, while at the same time water bank participants were given $75/acre foot pumped. 

"That creates a horrible dynamic in the community" remarked Keppen.  "It was our understanding that everybody else is going to get full water supplies..  Instead, the rest of the project got water supplies because they pumped their own groundwater to avoid an ESA violation on the lake." "We can not have that happen! We're trying to get them compensated."

At the Olene Gap, Manager of Horsefly Irrigation District, Bruce McCoy, explained the canal system in his district and how all the water is reused.  "Everything that's lost out of a canal comes back to the river system at some time....I repump some of this river 4 times, if I don't get return flows that keep coming back, then I have to retool my whole district to be able to operate."

Keppen said that water in canals recharge the wells.  With the idling program, people down the system from idled land have to increase their diversions...that is the unintended consequences.  Crawford added that over 250 domestic wells went dry in 2001 because there was no water in fields or in canals. 

McCoy said that a solution would be to use Boundary Dam for storage, which is 70' deep, and Long Lake should be looked at, 200' deep for cold water.  Wells are not usually used in this area, and most irrigators near Bonanza were not allowed to have permits to pump their wells.  Also, juniper trees use some of the water from springs.

Steve Kandra, en route towards Malin, said that we now use wheel lines where everyone used to flood irrigate.  But if the power rates increase drastically as planned in 2006,  people will have to return to flood irrigating because they won't be able to afford to run their pumps.  We saw dead  weedy fields that were part of the water bank land idling.  By then everyone realized that the next irrigator will need to take more water, and many will be infected with rampant weeds.

Jim Ottoman, longtime Malin area resident, told the Malin history, about the Chech immigrants and how they lived at the former lake's shores. He guided us through the Malin Park where we all learned to swim. 

On the bus ride to Tulelake, Chris Moudry told about the community and media efforts in 2001. There are 10.5 million acres in the

Jim Ottoman

 Klamath watershed, yet they took all the water from our 200,000 acres.  "We didn't feel it was justifiable that the Klamath irrigators were being singled out as the sole problem.  We videotaped to put a face on our people.  Single species management devastated our families and wildlife.  Within 1000 miles of shoreline canals, muskrats, birds, frogs, wildlife and habitat were destroyed."

Patriotic citizens went to the headgates.  "Marshals took over the gates.  They were inside the gates protecting the gates against those on the outside whose lives were being ruined by a federal mandate. (Their)..hypocrisy was beyond belief that they were doing that to hurt our way of life instead of protecting us."

While eating an excellent Basin-grown meal at Mike and Wandas provided by KWUA, and set up by Deb Crisp, everyone visited and watched a power point presentation by Dr Ken Rykbost on video, explaining the Basin's hydrology, and detailing the inaccuracies in the Hardy flow studies which helped form biological opinions that ruined a community and an ecosystem.

Gene Kelley, Natural Resources Conservation Service in Tulelake, spoke on implementation of 2002 Farm Bill conservation funding.  Over 30,000 acres have been involved in irrigation conservation and wildlife improvement practices.  CA Congressman Doolittle's house bill will help fix the Chiloquin Dam's blockage of over 90% of sucker habitat, and provide for conservation practices such as canal lining.

Jeff Mitchell, member of Klamath Tribes and Klamath Tribes water committee, shared with KBC, "I think it's going to create a better understanding between...the tribes and the water users about their concerns that each of our committees hold and need to look ahead and work toward certainty toward both our sides.  On October 17 is the tribal tour, expressing what Tribes feel is important to them and what we'd like to see as part of a long-term solution for the community.  The biggest benefit is allowing interaction between tribal and project people....to get out on the land and see what all of this is about."

Back on the tour, John Crawford states facts about our percentage of inefficiency:  Our 7% inefficiency is what goes to our refuges.  "As we become more efficient, the refuge pays the price for that."  Speaking to the tribes, just as your resources are vitally important to you in the Upper Basin, our wildlife resources are vitally important to us down here.  And our interactions with these wildlife resources on a daily basis, just as you folks do, are very very important to us.  If those resources pay a price for our increase in efficiency, we would probably rather go about this some other way.  So there is a beneficiary to the inefficiency that exists in the Klamath Project."

Crawford explained about the WWI and WWII homesteaders being invited to come and grow food for a hungry world, and they have deeds signed by 4 different presidents.  He showed where the lake level on the petroglyphs was 40' on one side. This was not all wetlands..it was a deep lake.

Deb Crisp, Executive Director of Tulelake Growers Association, presented the Kuchel Act lease land on the Tulelake refuges.  25% is grown in row crops, 75% grains. It all provides hundreds of tons of feed for wildlife.  There were over 3 million birds in the refuge 2 winters ago, according to USFWS reports.  The wetland rotation plan was detailed on how it helps crops and wildlife.

Earl Danosky, TID manager, showed us the D plant which pumps water from our refuges into Lower Klamath, which eventually goes back into the Klamath River.  This water historically was in in Tulelake's closed basin, and didn't have a way to reach the river. (That is part of why it seems absurd that now we must divert this water into the river, more than historical flows, with water that never would have gone into the river.)

He showed us TID well site #2, one of 10 drilled during the 2001 water crisis.  It pumps at a rate of 11,500 gallons per minute. When all of the TID wells are pumping, they alone can only service 15% of the Project. We are apprehensive about extensive long-term use before we develop a groundwater plan. We will not be able to supplement Project water without good power rates.

Luther Horsley, Klamath Drainage District, guided us through Lower Klamath and near Straits Drain.  It conveys drainage water from LK National Wildlife Refuge and irrigated land   It removes the excess winter water flows and drainage from the lower basin, a closed basin, to the Klamath River.

Horsley described the water quality lawsuit, and how the federal government is trying to fix the problem with millions of dollars in filtering prongs.  These will use a lot of water which we're trying to save, and they might not work.  He said the federal government won't take the local farmers' solutions seriously., of circulating the water. He was very discouraged that their solutions will not be listened to, and also explained where evaporation ponds could be used to provide a solution to the problems. 

Bob Flowers, with a 1906 map and old photos, explained area history near Straits Drain, and how water historically couldn't go from the basin into the Klamath River.

Keppen ended the tour by saying, "We need open science and we need to look at the watershed and not just the Klamath Project.  We're trying to recover the fish.  Our watershed is fragmented with 2 states, federal presence.....we need a locally-driven process. 

Klamath Tribes member Anna Bennett, Chiloquin, commented on the tour.  She said that she wants water quality and quantity, with no feds to control the solutions   She hopes the tribes and irrigators can come together for solutions. She questioned what Rangeland Trust's involvement was in this scenario and hopes everything will become public.

KBC had the opportunity to meet Michael Milstein from the Oregonian, and his comments seemed to portray the general sentiments of the group, "After several years of seeing people feeling bitter and beat upon and feeling like they're sort of powerless to do something, its great to see people talking and working together and I really felt the sense of hope today that I haven't seen before, that maybe things can get better and...the community can flourish without the sort of divisiveness that has happened in the past."




Page Updated: Saturday February 25, 2012 05:34 AM  Pacific

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