Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Fighting for Our Right to Irrigate Our Farms and Caretake Our Natural Resources

ESA Forum Exposes Keppen's Species' Recovery Plans
and Kerr's Lack of Facts

The Bald Eagle Conference had Dan Keppen, executive director of Klamath Water Users Association, Andy Kerr, representing Oregon Natural Resources Council, Bob Davison from Wildlife Management Institute of Bend, and Kristen Berry, regional director of the National Audubon Society, as panel speakers Saturday  Feb.15, at Mills Elementary School.  Each speaker presented their views to over 70 people regarding the Endangered Species Act, then the panel was asked questions.

Davidson and  Barry both felt that the endangered species act needed to be strengthened. Davidson also advocated more communication and partnerships with landowners, getting facts and plans exposed to the public. He stressed using the 'best available science', and was critical of the National Academy of Science taking 1 1/2 years and costing $600,000. Not knowing cause-and-effect of water levels and habitat on listed species, he feels it is prudent to use governmental agencys' opinions of 'best available science', "When you don't know, you got to err on the side of species."

Barry said that "Water, nature's lifeblood, has been drained away" by agriculture, and felt that 2001 was the first victory for the ESA concerning suckers, coho and tribes.  He criticized the Bureau of Reclamation for creating farmland in the Klamath Basin, and said, "The carnage of last year's fish kill is more than a warning sign that we are on the verge of ecological disaster," inferring that the Klamath Basin killed the Klamath River fish last summer.

Dan Keppen explained, "In the last 10 years, since the two sucker species were listed as endangered and coho salmon were listed under the threatened species act, BO's rendered by USFW and Nymphs for suckers, and NMFS for coho salmon,  have increasingly emphasized the reallocation of water in the Klamath Project as the sole means of avoiding jeopardizing these fish."  This resulted in the water shut-off of 2001, which harmed farmers, the whole community, waterfowl that feed on our crops and eagles which eat the waterfowl.  Banks aren't loaning money with no guarantee of irrigation water, and the potato chip company may leave with no guarantee of water for our crops. The NAS said there is not sufficient science to shut off water, yet the USFWS and environmental groups still demand lake level management.  The single species recovery plan to protect 3 species has greatly harmed many of the other 430 species of wildlife here in the basin.

Keppen went on to describe how the Klamath Project was built and paid for by farmers to store water to irrigate farms.  The lake was rerouted for irrigation needs.  The project represents only 2% of the watershed going to the ocean, 200 miles away, however the project is currently targeted as the sole means of restoring coho and suckers.  In 2001, with thousands of acres shut off from water and grain, the wildlife was greatly harmed. He brought to our attention how 'chillingly prophetic' Governor Kitzhaber's insight was in 1998 that with the recommended project plan on a dry water year, all  project water would be stopped.

Freezing litigation and putting dollars into a long-term solution for the ecosystem seemed the prudent beginning to our farm and species problems.  Keppen's list of required principles would include being "affordable, equitable, implemental, durable, and reducing major conflicts".  "Look at the whole watershed, not just the 2% from the Klamath Project"  We have spent thousands of volunteer hours in processes of environmental restoration within the project. Keppen asked what benefits are there with lake-level management: water quality? certainty for farmers? more sucker fish in the lake? more coho from dumping warm water into the river late in the summer? 500,000 acre feet of water is diverted into the Trinity River, which is more than the project uses, but we farmers are being forced to bare sole responsibility.

Andy Kerr  ceaselessly criticized the farmers.  He said that their corn, soybeans, and barley get huge subsidies,"they get subsidized electrical power,"and Farmers love the lifestyle so much that they are economically irrational." Keppen explained that we have no major subsidies in the Klamath Basin. We do not grow corn or soybeans, and alfalfa, potatoes, horseradish, and mint have no subsidies.  Occasionally there are small grain subsidies. He explained that our current power rate is not a subsidy, but it was a business contract. Kerr listed globalization, limited crop demand and growing season, cheaper Canadian wheat and Chinese onions, better paying jobs in town, global warming, more tribal and ESA demands, Reclamation doesn't work anymore,  farmers addiction to a lifestyle, and 33,000 dead salmon, as reasons that farmers should willingly sell out and leave. He said that idling farmland and flooding leaselands and recreating more wetlands would put more water in the system. (Dan explained to Kerr and the audience that farmland uses approximately 2 1/2 acre feet of water compared to over 3 acre feet for wetlands...creating wetlands does not save water.  idling land will cause it to blow away, make a dust bowl, and impact the entire community--farms and businesses dependant on the farms. "By saying we are going to retire land now, you're jumping to the conclusion that the project is the curse of all the problems in the Klamath Basin and that's a pretty drastic solution to undertake before having a pretty good sense of how all these other things are factored in."  He also added that in the last 10 yrs, USFWS is using historically more water than before).  Kerr stated, "Farmers farm land and the government... . It's a great  place to grow horseradish, but you know how many people have a jar of horseradish in their refrigerator and it's been there for about 18 years.' (fact from KBC--the Klamath Basin produces over 1000 acres of horseradish, which is over 30% of that grown in the United States! Keppen explained to him that many areas also demand Klamath Basin potatoes and alfalfa because of our fertile soil and weather, the produce is exceptionally rich).  Kerr said that 2002 was a horrible year for Klamath Basin crops at the expense of 33,000 dead salmon. .(Dan replied, "It was a good year (for crops and prices), that isn't a correct statement.")

Farming in the Klamath Basin is viable, stated Keppen, but the litigation is affecting the farmers.  Outside interests are trying to get farmers off their land.  "Farmers provide 60% of feed that waterfowl in the refuge use"

The farmers appreciated being invited to the forum to share their knowledge and species recovery ideas with the public.

For more about the Oregon Natural Resources Council (ONRC), that Andy Kerr represents, here's the link:   The Wildlands Project History
http://www.citizenreviewonline.org/april_2002/wildlands_project_history.htm  It also describes it's links with the United Nations, and plans of rural cleansing, using the ESA.
The central office of the Wildlands project is located in Tucson, Arizona and serves as a clearinghouse and coordination point for implementing the project. Funds for the project are obtained through solicitations, advertisements and from grant-makers such as the Bullett Foundation. For example, in 1993 and 1994 the Bullett Foundation gave the Wildlands Project member, Oregon Natural Resources Council $95,000 alone for "advocacy work based on good science, agency monitoring and appeals." In their spring 1996 newsletter, Friends of the Bow/Biodiversity Associates acknowledged thanks for the grants it received from the Foundation for Deep Ecology, Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, National Rivers Coalition, Fund for Wild Nature, Harder Foundation, and Reraam Foundation. Donations from Patagonia and New Belgium Brewing Company are also acknowledged.


 

 

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