Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
is the Klamath Basin, who is our community,
We are asked why we are dedicated to maintaining this website: "Now it is our duty to dedicate our lives to this task of preserving the freedoms for which our fathers and forefathers fought, preserving this community and country that they built. Otherwise, their service and the lives they gave for you and me will have been in vain. We cannot live with that. So Dad, this is for you."
Your webmasters/editors/caretakers of KBC.
KBC NEWS website is - short version: Voices of the Klamath Basin Farmers, Ranchers, Miners, Loggers, Indians and Fishermen. including people On- and Off-Project, tribal and non-tribal, Modoc, Siskiyou and Klamath Counties, Oregon and California. We offer you, our neighbors/brothers and sisters, a voice. In 2001 we found we had no voice when our U.S. government denied Klamath Project irrigators their deeded water; before the Project was built we had 20-30' of water on our land. The government took it all in 2001. No one would listen to reason. We invite you to use our website. You can make a difference. But beware, if you disagree with or question your 'leaders,' you may experience retribution for using your 'freedom of speech' in our 'land of the free.' God doesn't give preference to borders, race or money. Welcome to KBC!
We are a farm community on the border of California and Oregon in the Klamath Basin. Around the turn of the century, America realized the need for prime farmland. Settlers came from far and wide to raise livestock and crops. This was a pioneer's dream.
This is the most fertile soil in America, and also the most efficient Reclamation Irrigation Project.
Tulelake and Lower Klamath Lake were huge natural lakes in a closed basin, and water flowed back and forth between Klamath Lake and the basin. During wet seasons water went onto the land, and when water was low, it flowed back into the lake.
The only natural outlet to Upper Klamath Lake; Link River, which flows into Lake Ewauna and is the actual headwaters to the Klamath River, occasionally went dry. When the Project was built, the water was rerouted into reservoirs and Klamath Lake to be stored for irrigation. Diversion channels were made so the excess water could be sent down Klamath River; this was water that seldom before left this closed basin. Our parents and other irrigators paid for the entire Klamath Project.
Most of us irrigators are second, third and fourth generation farmers. We grew up on horses, in old grain trucks, the canals and fields were our playground, and our community was, and is, family.
We were taught values and were given all the freedom in the world. We had to love our neighbors, because, while the neighbor dad doctored our sheep, our dads wired their houses. These young settlers depended on each other. From nothing but a lake bed, with no roads, electricity, or infrastructure, they built this community, and it took camaraderie and working together to make it work.
My (this editor's) parents came to the Klamath Basin in 1949 in a 1947 Dodge Truck. Dad had just gotten out of the service in WWII and his name was drawn out of the pickle jar to win an 80-acre homestead in Tulelake. Other settlers to the Klamath Basin bought their farms and ranches.
Since there were between 20 - 40 feet of water on our property in Tule Lake before the Project was built, our deed includes the guarantee of 2 1/2 acre feet of water per acre for the rest of our lives and our heir's thereafter. As this excess water was diverted to Klamath Lake for irrigation storage and more excess into Klamath River, we were promised a low power rate since our excess water created power. It was a business transaction. It was a hungry world and America needed food. Americans saw the need to be self-sufficient.
Along with hundreds of settlers came an entire community and economy, which was totally supported by the agricultural and logging businesses. There were stores for clothes, shoes, tires, livestock supplies, feed stores, cars and trucks, etc.
Everyone in Rural America has a place. There are animals to feed, cows to milk, grain to plant. So every person has a place of importance. And each person is responsible for his home, his community and his country. We had to build our own community; it was not given to us.
Our area is a wildlife paradise. Geese at times blacken the skies, deer, antelope, coyotes, ducks, hawks and eagles live in our fields and our ditches. The frogs and crickets sing to us all night. That is one of the reasons our families were drawn to the Klamath Basin to spend the rest of our lives.
In 2001, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was introduced to our community in a hurry. The Bureau of Reclamation shut off our irrigation water, we were told, because the current 'opinions' said that the thousands of sucker fish in Klamath Lake, and coho salmon in the Klamath River, were endangered or threatened. That meant that our basin, which once was a deep lake, and as much of our untested aquifer as we could pump, belonged in Klamath Lake which was spilling over and in a river that the miners said had more water than they had ever seen. And the irrigators received no water. The refuges went dry. Our crops died. My husband and I (we are the KBC webmasters and editors) personally had to drill a $100,000 well to keep our perennial horseradish fields alive. Our organic pea field died.
Our neighbors and parents were some of the lucky veterans whose deeds were signed by U. S. Presidents. They are in their 'golden years', and they cried and asked why? Why would their government take water off their land for the first time in all history? Why would their government break their promises? Why would their government say the fish are endangered when they will not tell us how many there are, how many there were, and how many they want? Why would the fish need more water than they had before the project was built back in the early 1900s?.
Why would their government destroy the community that they spent their lives building from nothing? Why would their government allow our abundant wildlife to die?
We watched our Hispanic farm families, who had lived here for over 20 years, move away, with no place to go, no jobs, no money. We watched the school's dwindle in numbers. We watched our refuge water be sucked out of our area, and for the first time in known history, these refuge lakes dried and cracked. Animals died. It was like a cemetery.
The night our water was shut off I emailed the world in total disbelief and despair. A friend Ron DeShon, an old neighbor whose father also was a Tulelake homesteader, called and ask what he could do to help, and within a week he created www.klamathbasincrisis.org This became a night and day task for him and for many of us feeding him information....contacts of representatives, media, food services for the farmers and ranchers and farm workers who had no income, meetings, rallies, groups being formed to provide services.
Convoys came and brought hay for our livestock, since our alfalfa fields had dried up and died. They brought food, clothing, and donated funds to help the farmers and ranchers in the Klamath Basin
Over 200 domestic wells went dry, so there was some help for some residents needing to drill wells to service their homes. Our untested aquifer was being sucked dry. On top of that, as some of our fields went dry, we were pumping our wells into the refuge to help sustain over 300 species of wildlife.
Over half of waterfowl feed comes from our crops, and in 2001, that feed was not possible. So many farmers planted a crop on dry land and left it for the birds.
KBC was our voice, our informational resource, and our place to go for information. In the midst of the crisis there was minute-by-minute news. Ron acquired a team of a couple dozen people to do different jobs, including having a laptop and live cams at the headgates.
Ron also created a discussion forum where the latest information was shared. It also became, and still is at times, a place where anti-agriculture folks vent their anger at our existence. Hopefully they have learned something about who we are, why we are here, why it has always been so important to us to sustain our local community and economy, farming in America, our values, and our pride in being self-sufficient and productive. It tears us apart when we read and hear false accusations, which all the more makes us want to preserve this 'land of the free, and home of the brave.' And above all, from everything from planting and harvesting, nurturing baby horses, and assisting in all aspects of growing and marketing food and livestock through groups like 4-H, our children learn that is their responsibility to be productive.
Two years ago Ron gave the website to me and my husband David due to the amount of time and personal finances this entails. David is a 3rd generation farmer from the Klamath Basin.
KBC entails between 30-80 hours a week. We became the home of Klamath Water Users (KWUA), Tulelake Growers Association (TGA), and Klamath Bucket Brigade (KBB). Later, KBB formed their own website www.klamathbucketbrigade.org, and KWUA is now www.kwua.org .
We are doing our best to bring you only facts, science, news, contacts, personal stories, a place for prayers and prayer requests, and a place for interaction with the irrigators. We are the Klamath Basin Irrigators. The settlers built this community by working together. Only by working together can we preserve our community and our country.
The comments and editorials written by "KBC", the editors/webmasters, are only the perceptions and views of the editors and not necessarily those of every entity housed on KBC. We try to use mostly quotes in our articles to convey documented facts, and our goal, like that of KWUA, KBB, and TGA is to preserve irrigated agriculture in the Klamath Basin.
Thank you for taking time to learn about us.
P.S. For the story of our roots as told by family settlers in the Tulelake Basin, go HERE. This is a success story of the building a thriving community from nothing but a lakebed. We tell and show you our gorgeous landscape, our homes then and now, our people, life on the farm as a child, and who we are now. "You captured not only the essence of the basin, but of rural America," comments Jeffrey Stoffer, managing editor for American Legion Magazine. It is a beautiful story of rural America.
Page Updated: Friday May 15, 2009 03:07 AM Pacific
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