Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
I have grown up in Tulelake like many others. My motherís grandfather homesteaded near Olene, OR (near Klamath Falls) in the late 1800ís and her father homesteaded in Tulelake in 1938. My fatherís dad came to the basin in 1944 with the Bureau of Reclamation as a dragline operator helping complete the project in Coppock Bay and the Panhandle. The only years I have been away were the years I spent in college. I graduated from Shasta College in Redding, CA with an associateís degree in biology and graduated from Oregon State University with a bachelorís degree in Agronomy.
Upon graduation I came home for the summer looking for employment. At that time I did not know where I might find a job. I drove grain truck that fall and interviewed for a job available at Newell Grain Growers where I am still employed. Growing up in the basin I was always aware of the ups and downs in agriculture. Price changes, weather changes, and changes in technology were and are commonplace. Living with those all those changing things was just a part of daily life.
Through the years water has always been the consistent lifeblood of the community. We were all surprised when the Short-nose and Lost River suckers were declared endangered in 1988 since so many of us were aware of the huge runs of the fish in the rivers that empty into Klamath Lake. We were even more surprised when the environmentalists tried to do away with farming in the lease lands in 1992. Little did we know then that a fight for our very culture was underway.
When I received word that the water would be shut off in 2001 it was devastating news. As manager of a farmer owned cooperative I immediately wondered how we might stay in business. Many days of attending rallies and meetings were followed by many sleepless nights. Knowing that without water potatoes and onions would probably not be grown we prepared much more grain seed than normal. As expected seeded acreage was much greater because most of the potato and onion ground was also planted to grain. Surprisingly the quality of the crop was better than expected but the yields were only a fraction of normal. Even with a large increase in planted acreage the crop delivered to the associations elevators was approximately one half of a normal crop year. Since our fixed costs remain fairly constant our operating cost per ton of grain increased dramatically further reducing the returns to growers on a substantially smaller crop. Our business like many others is still struggling to overcome the problems created by the water shutoff. Bankers have been reluctant to lend to growers because of the uncertainty of the water supply. Renewing contracts for grain, potato, and onion production have been jeopardized. The lack of money flowing through the local economy has been very apparent. School enrollment has declined and employment in the farm sector has also declined.
I have been blessed to raise my children in the same area where my parents and I were raised. Where you wave at almost every car you pass on the road because you know almost every one you pass. Where you can walk out of your house and see a flock of geese fly over or land in a nearby field or a bald eagle pass. Where Red-Tailed hawks and barn owls nest and roost in your trees and the Prairie falcons sit atop the power poles. Where you see the ground being worked in the spring to plant the new crop with the hope of a bountiful crop in the fall. Where on cold summer nights you hear the pickups scramble to the pumps to start the sprinklers that protect the potatoes from frost. Where the combines harvest the grain and the bulkers harvest potatoes and onions. Where the smells of the area from the Tulelake marsh, the potato cellars, the mint, hay and onion fields and many more become a part of your life. Where you see not only your own children grow up but those of your friends and neighbors you have known your whole life. These are just a few of the things I for one have come to love about this area. Iím sure every member of the community can list an abundance of reasons they love this area.
Veterans and their spouses who were willing to die for our way of life pioneered the Klamath Project. When it comes under attack by those wielding psuedo-science and purely political agendas under the guise of the ESA who live hundreds of miles away I know where my allegiance will remain. It has become apparent not only in our area but many others that the ESA is being used not to protect species but to destroy small rural communities. Activists have steamrolled so many things through with little scientific study they only make fools of themselves to anyone willing to study and consider their science. We must stop self-proclaimed experts from enforcing the ESA for their personal social agendas.
Page Updated: Wednesday August 17, 2011 02:01 AM Pacific
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