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Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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by Pat Ratliff, Klamath Basin editor/photographer, 12/28/03
In response to the Dec 28th opinion article in the Sacramento Bee entitled, "Endangered Species Act at work in Klamath basin", I feel I must make clear some misunderstandings the article gives.
Let me first of all praise the authors for their hard work, done for the National Academy of
Sciences report.  I must wonder why, after all this scientific work, the authors now feel the
need to jump into the political melee.
     Their statement "The ESA is an unequivocal statement by the American people that no
native species should be allowed to go extinct and that the best way to insure this is to
protect the environments in which the species live", is at once suspect.  While the science
mentioned in the statement may be entirely true, it being an "unequivocal statement by the
American people" is at best their opinion.  I would hope that scientists, especially, would
see the need to keep hard scientific facts and opinion separate.  Beginning that sentence
with the words "In OUR opinion" would have been much more factual.
   Another opinion stated as fact, "The problems in the Klamath basin in the drought
stricken summer of 2001 were not created by the ESA.  Rather, conflict turned into crisis
because basin stakeholders on all sides  took entrenched, unyielding positions". NO NO
NO!  The Bureau of Reclamation, in response to the NOAA, and the ESA, turned water off to
1400 farm families.  The water levels in Upper Klamath Lake were met all year, as were the
minimum downstream requirements, so the only *problems* that summer were related to
the Klamath Irrigation Project not getting any water, and so many people losing everything
 they had.
Few if any stakeholders had any idea that water would be completely turned off, and it was
never put up for any discussion.  No "entrenched, unyielding positions" were taken (that
summer) because there was never a chance for anyone to do anything about it after the
decision was announced.
   Again, stated as fact, "Solutions in the Klamath Basin... will require removing dams..." 
My opinion of the NAS report took the removal of some dams as a suggestion.  If there was
hard scientific evidence ( which is what we are all looking for) that removing the dams would
positively help the fish downstream, then I think their very report would have been more
definite on this. Again, the phrase "In OUR opinion" would have been more correct, and
would give the reader a better understanding of where this op/ed is coming from.
   The closing paragraph in summary is full of misinformation.  "Just as the American public
intended when it was passed 30 years ago, the Endangered Species Act compels all
players to come to the table and gives us a place to start working on solutions. It has
accomplished this in the Klamath basin."  As a landowner in the Klamath Basin let me say,
very few of the stakeholders have ever been to the table, and I dare say, never will be. From
the smallest tributary north of Klamath Lake to the last landowner at the coast, the *people*
who live on this land are given little chance of interaction with those who you so accurately
describe as the "players".  We have too many "players", and not enough stakeholders at
the tables.  The phrase "follow the money" perfectly describes where the outcome will be
   I would like to remind the authors of the op/ed that they are "players", not stakeholders. 
There is a huge difference, and I think the public deserves to know the difference.
Pat Ratliff
24221 Stateline Rd.
Malin, OR, 07632





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