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Basin should get credit for what it's done

Published April 4, 2006

It's more than strange that people from outside the Upper Klamath Basin, who are trying to turn the Basin into a battleground, complain about lack of progress on restoring habitat even as such progress continues and can be demonstrated.

The only demonstration that would seem to satisfy them would be to shut down all irrigation in the Upper Basin, and there's no justification for that.

Last week plans were described by state and federal agencies to improve fish habitat by restoring 5,600 acres of marshland by removing or modifying dikes.

Waterfowl should also benefit, as should water quality.

In the past 10 to 15 years, thousands of acres of agricultural land along Upper Klamath Lake have been re-turned to wetlands.

The project announced last week would continue the effort. It would restore land near where the Williamson River enters the lake close to Modoc Point.

In approving $2 million of the funds, the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board said that the project is “a critical piece for the recovery” of two sucker species.

“Historically, this delta wetland filtered and trapped nutrients and sediment,” said the board in a news release. “Return of this function will improve water quality of Upper Klamath Lake.”

Others involved in the restoration efforts include The Nature Conservancy, which applied for the money, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

In the recent past, there has also been other restoration work along the lake. In addition, establishment of a water bank reduced the amount agriculture depends on the lake.

Agriculture in the Basin is once again under fire. This time, the reason is a threat to close all or most of the commercial and sports salmon fishing seasons off the Oregon Coast because of insufficient returns of Klamath River chinook salmon for three straight years. Fisheries officials don't have a way of protecting the Klamath River chinook, without protecting all of the other salmon along with it - even if the other chinook strains are healthy.

Yet, upper Basin irrigation is just part of the puzzle. Such things as ocean conditions, sea lions at the river's mouth, and fishing limits are involved and are far beyond the control of anyone in the Upper Basin.

People in the Upper Basin haven't been sitting still. They've been giving up agricultural land and working with a variety of agencies to improve the water. And they should get some credit for that.

Editorial board

Pat Bushey wrote today's editorial, which represents the view of the Herald and News editorial board.




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