and fed up.
That’s the slogan advertising a “Call
to Unity” tractor convoy planned for Friday, May 29 starting
in Merrill that is aimed at drawing local support from
businesses and national attention to the impending water
shutoff in the Klamath Project that could occur by or before
Ben DuVal, who serves as vice
president of Klamath Water Users Association, is part of a
team of organizers and expects upwards of 1,000 or more
people at the grass-roots event. The convoy will travel
about 20 miles from Merrill at 10 a.m., through downtown
Klamath Falls and past the A Canal head gates around 11
a.m., and end at a field just south of Miller Island Road in
Midland at or around 3 p.m. Organizers, including DuVal,
Klamath Basin businessman Bob Gasser, and others, are
looking to support for the convoy.
asking farm supporters far and wide to join our movement,”
Gasser said, in a news release.
“It’s not going to be limited to just
tractors and farm equipment. You can fire up your gravel
truck, your logging truck, your pickup truck or even your
car, and join us, too. We want to draw public attention to
the need to fix the flows and save our farms,” Gasser added.
“Hopefully, this will also draw the attention of President
Trump and his administration. We know how committed he is in
securing America’s food supply and we need him to know that
his goal is in danger here in the Basin.”
DuVal said Timber Unity in Salem is
also planning to attend the rally as well as agricultural
producers from outside of the Klamath Project.
“It’s important that we show the
government officials in charge that this is not okay to
continue to make bad decisions for 20 years that are ruining
the economy in the Basin and not work towards a solution to
that,” DuVal said.
DuVal expects to see individuals
showing support with signs as the convoy rolls through local
towns and encourages businesses to do the same.
“Everybody realizes the economic
impact that ag has and that it’s kind of the foundation of
the economy here in the Klamath Basin,” DuVal said. “There’s
been a tremendous outpouring of support from the local
business community. We really appreciate that.”
Two decades following the water
shutoff in 2001, DuVal said he never imagined he and others
in the Project would be back in the same place they were
then in terms of limited water allocation in 2020.
With the Project’s initial water
allocation of 140,000 acre feet being reduced to an
available 55,000 acre feet of water, the outlook for farmers
and ranchers is no water for fields by mid-summer.
DuVal said while the Project’s water
supply hasn’t been shut off at this time, it’s possible in
the near future.
“Basically our allocation with what is
in the Project is six inches of water,” DuVal said. “It’s
really disappointing to see how bad it was in 2001 and see
solutions on the table and then to get to a point where 20
years later, nothing has changed.
“Nothing’s getting any better for the
sucker fish in Upper Klamath Lake, and nothing’s getting any
better for the salmon down river. There’s no reason why we
have to go to a point where I have to be completely shut
Jeff Nettleton, area manager for the
Klamath Basin Area Office of the Bureau of Reclamation, said
a lot of questions remain as to why the sucker populations
“We just don’t know why particularly
the juvenile fish aren’t recruiting into the population
there, and we also don’t know the answers to what to do
about the C. shasta disease in the river.
“That’s one reason we’ve worked hard,
all the parties, to develop this interim operations plan,”
he added, “...and extended period to reconsult (the
biological opinion) so we can continue to work on some
science and information needs to hopefully have better
answers to those questions.”
Nettleton said he is supportive of the
irrigators’ right to demonstrate and call attention to the
challenges they face this water year.
“It certainly is reminiscent of 2001,”
“The operational decisions that
Reclamation is making are not impacted by things like that.
We make our decisions based on the best information we have
and sound management of the water supply.
“Those things are guided by the
Biological Opinion, and a whole host of criteria,” he added.
Nettleton hopes to see continuing
precipitation in the Basin so the demand for water is
“We’ll take anything we can get but we
just don’t know,” Nettleton said.
DuVal said every day now is critical
to try and utilize every little bit of moisture that is left
in the Project soil.
DuVal grows alfalfa so his crops are
“Basically my focus this year is keep
the crops that I already have established alive and maximize
production with what little water is available,” DuVal said.
“I mitigated my risk in my mind by
planting alfalfa,” DuVal said. “You can do well with a
little bit of water. But it does make me question the
future, not so much for myself but for my kids.”
DuVal will be bringing his 11 and
13-year-old daughters to the convoy and encourages families
to do the same, whether they roll down the street in a car,
truck, or other vehicle.
He said there’s no limit on
participating vehicles, and social distancing will be in
place with the pace set by tractors.
“We’re trying to be aware of that and
keep everybody safe and healthy at the same time while
making a political statement,” DuVal said.
“Basically we’re just wanting to get
the businesses behind it, have farms there that are being
impacted by this, which is basically everybody in the
(Project) and even farms that aren’t being impacted by it
are showing up to support it.”
Paul Simmons, executive director of
the KWUA, expressed support for the event but said it was
not a KWUA event.
“We’re supportive of things that would
help bring attention to our circumstances in a peaceful
way,” Simmons said.
“I think people are concerned that
it’s not well understood … of how difficult the
circumstances are and how unreasonable the state of
regulation of the Project has become,” Simmons added.
The rally will end in a local farmer’s
field in Midland, where vehicles will park, and each driver
will plant a symbolic white cross in the ground.
“This symbolic act will honor those
who farmed before us, including the unfortunate families who
no longer operate because of the increasingly uncertain
water supply,” said Scott Seus, a Tulelake farmer, in a news
release. “For the remainder of this summer, those crosses
will provide a grim reminder to passersby of the fate that
awaits our rural communities if things don’t change.”