Reschke, Iverson: Oregon must stop sending
Klamath water to California
Vikki Breese Iverson
Vikki Breese Iverson represents House District 55 and E. Werner
Reschke represents House District 56 in the Oregon House of
Wildfires this summer destroyed communities, businesses and our
food producers. We have a tough road to recovery ahead. The
fires send a message loud and clear to manage our resources
before itís too late.
Oregon has many resources that are a critical foundation to our
communities and economy. This year we have struggled to overcome
a global pandemic, recession, record wildfires ó and a chronic
shortage of water.
Why are our food producers, including many century-old family
farms with 100-year-old water rights, facing a shortage of
water? Because we drain Oregonís largest lake to artificially
increase water supply in California. Oregonís citizens access to
water, our wildlife habitats and our economies are hit hard.
Why? For an outdated and unproven fantasy that more water ó and
specifically more of Oregonís water ó means more fish for
For more than 20 years, Oregon has looked the other way as
Oregonís stored water in Upper Klamath Lake is sent to
California. The Bureau of Reclamation says itís necessary to
help threatened fish species in California, yet even with 20
years of our water, the health of Californiaís fish have not
Meanwhile, Californiaís municipal and commercial water supplies
have benefited greatly from this gift while our own farmers,
tribes and species suffer.
Under Oregon law, itís illegal to use stored water without a
water right. While Reclamation holds a 1905 Oregon water right
to store water in Upper Klamath Lake, Klamath basin farmers hold
the right to use that water. In other words, when Reclamation
ships stored water to California without a water right, it is
stealing water from our Klamath farmers.
This action not only deprives Klamath farmers of their rights,
it also hurts Oregonís Klamath Tribes, who have fought for
decades to keep as much water in the lake as possible to protect
two endangered fish species in Oregon.
Klamath farmers sued the Oregon Water Resources Department
earlier this year in order to stop the water being illegally
transferred to California. Thankfully, the court ruled in favor
of Klamath farmers. Specifically, the court found OWRD
ďwrongfully allowed the release of stored watersĒ from the lake,
and this failure ďis a deprivation of a precious resource
belonging to the people of Oregon.Ē
Instead of complying with the court order, however, OWRD
announced they plan to fight the ruling. OWRD is seeking a legal
stay to allow them to continue to illegally divert water while
their appeal is pending. And now California special interest
groups are joining OWRD in the lawsuit.
Every Oregonian should be asking: Why? Why is an Oregon agency
fighting with its own citizens to continue to illegally send
Oregonís precious water resources to another state? Why is
Oregonís government more concerned with protecting Californian
interests than helping our own hard-hit communities, especially
during this drought session?
Why does California want Oregonís water?
We want answers to these questions, and we canít wait another 20
years. Weíre seeking to create a bipartisan legislative work
group to investigate why Oregon Water Resources Department is
advocating for special interests in California rather than the
people of our state.
We aim to determine why an Oregon state agency, funded by Oregon
taxpayers and responsible for protecting Oregonís water
resources, is fighting Oregonians in court to divert millions of
acre-feet of water to California. We invite all lawmakers
interested in protecting our state and our natural resources to
join us in this effort.
We must advocate for the thriving future of our state rather
than handing over our resources and their management to outside
interests. The toxic smoke and rubble weíre sorting through is
sending us a message: Manage our resources before itís too late.
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