I am writing in response to
Klamath County Chamber of Commerce President
Stan Gilbert’s guest opinion in the Aug. 4
Herald and News in which he continues to push
the false assertion that the Klamath Basin
Restoration Agreement somehow protects
irrigators outside the Klamath Project, and
would have prevented the shutdown of irrigators
above Klamath Lake.
Currently, tribal in-stream
claims are shutting down everyone who irrigates
out of the Williamson, Sprague, and Wood rivers
and their tributaries.
This is not simply a drought
shutdown. The tribal claims would have shut
off irrigation for 88 of the last 95 years.
If these destructive claims are not
overturned, many in the upper Basin will be
permanently without water.
While the KBRA has not been
funded, major portions of the document have
already been implemented, to the extreme
detriment of the upper Basin.
Most significant is the
alteration of water adjudication in the
Basin. Parties who signed on to the KBRA had
to file a document with Oregon Water
Resources Department, which “recognized the
tribal water rights at the claimed amounts
and with a priority date of time
This document was filed in
the adjudication and included as an
attachment to the KBRA in 2008.
It should come as no surprise
to the Chamber that the upper Basin is being
dried up by tribal claims; this is exactly
what the KBRA stipulates in Section
For a fuller understanding of
the true intention of the KBRA, read the
Yurok Tribe’s Dispute Initiation Notice,
demanding of the OWRD that the upper Basin
be shut off to provide “environmental water”
downstream. Within days of the Yuroks’
filing, the OWRD obediently began the
process of putting upper Basin irrigators
out of business to supply, through limited
license, an additional 175,000 acre feet to
be dumped down the Klamath River.
I find it ironic that the
chamber claims to be against paid buyouts in
the Project but they chose to support an
“agreement” that advocates permanently
retiring large acreages in the upper Basin.
I applaud the chamber’s
stance against Oregon Wild, but the chamber
got side-tracked by its comments. The
chamber seemed to forget Oregon Wild had
nothing to do with these shutoffs.
By supporting the KBRA, the
chamber itself bears a great deal of
responsibility in upper Basin water being
stripped from its lawful owners. The chamber
needs to take a hard look at their
partiality toward some irrigators at the
expense of others.
Mr. Gilbert lays out a
misleading choice of KBRA vs. adjudication.
The KBRA has become the new
adjudication with these draconian provisions
being rolled into one ugly package.
Furthermore, the nightmare is
just getting started. OWRD recently came out
with studies indicating that every
groundwater well is hydraulically connected
with surface water. Touting the theory that
river levels are influenced directly by
groundwater, OWRD has already asserted that
it may begin to regulate wells to support
This isn’t just the upper
Basin; this means that wells in the Klamath
Project, Swan Lake, Langell Valley, and even
the municipal supply for the city of Klamath
Falls are vulnerable to the absurdly large
Association was successful in allowing a
minimal usage of livestock drinking water
for affected ranchers and for the municipal
supplies of Crater Lake National Park, but
this relief will expire in 180 days. If the
park can be shut off, does the chamber
really think Klamath Falls is safe?
I urge the chamber to take a
second look at it actions and reverse course
on the KBRA before the entire county goes
bankrupt. Some Klamath Falls
agriculture-related businesses are down 50
percent in sales since water shutoffs. Every
chamber member should read the Yuroks’
Dispute Initiation Notice; KBRA supporters,
this is what you are advocating.
Thankfully our current
commissioners have ignored the chamber’s
advice and have come out strongly against
the KBRA. They are in favor of a true
settlement for the entire Basin. Congress
has also indicated the KBRA will not be
supported until it becomes fair.
I support Sen. Ron Wyden’s
initiative to reach a settlement. The upper
Basin has always preferred settlement over
litigation, but litigation must proceed if
there is no practical settlement.
I realize that a true
settlement would contain things that the
upper Basin would have to “hold its nose
over” to obtain protections for Klamath
County’s economic viability, but the current
version of the KBRA ultimately ends our
economic viability as a group, a community,
a county and a country. Forget holding our
noses, our head is on the chopping block.