Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.

United States Department of Interior
‘Listening Session’ Redmond, OR
August 22, 2006 8:30 am

William D. Kennedy
24500 North Poe Valley Road
Klamath Falls, OR 97603
Chairman of the Board
Family Farm Alliance

Dirk Kempthorne
Secretary of the Interior
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20240

Dear Secretary Dirk Kempthorne:

My name is Bill Kennedy, and I traveled here today from Klamath Falls, Oregon on behalf of the Family Farm Alliance. The Alliance advocates for family farmers, ranchers, irrigation districts, and allied industries in seventeen Western states. The Alliance is focused on one mission – To ensure the availability of reliable, affordable irrigation water supplies to Western farmers and ranchers.

The ranch that I operate is one of 1,400 family farms and ranches that depend on water supplies from the Klamath Irrigation Project (“Project”). My ranch has been a private wildlife refuge for over 25 years. In 2001 single species management as interpreted by the ESA allocated 1000 acres of my irrigated wildlife habitat for meeting two unattainable biological opinions. Over 400 species of vertebrates lost food and habitat to benefit two species on the endangered species list.

The members of the Family Farm Alliance have many other examples of how onerous and expensive processes associated with the U.S. Department of Interior can be. Many collaborative projects in Western states are delayed or stopped by the sole association with Interior. We also have many examples of how relationships with Interior can work.

Today, my focus is on my back yard, the Klamath Basin.

Building Relationships

In order for Interior to foster meaningful, working relationships it must take action today to gain respect and trust. For the past twenty years, private landowners have become reluctant to associate with many of Interiors departments. The normal relationship has been one of Interior mandating to the landowner what must be done. There typically is more interest by your departments in the regulations that restrict Interiors’ actions than on ways to create flexibility.

There are examples of positive and meaningful holistic resource management as well. The relationship between the wildlife refuge management and the food producing family farmers is better today than it was just six years ago. Willingness to create flexibility by people like Ron Cole and David Mauser has resulted in a successful Walking Wetlands program. This is a partnership program that works.

I do compliment the Klamath ERO office of Fish and Wildlife as well as the Klamath Reclamation project office for developing better working relationship this last year. This has resulted in a flexible implementation of the Biological Opinion for Suckers and Coho. Unfortunately this seems to be headed to the court system.

At upper ends of the Klamath basin we see Interior to continue in its land acquisition goals. This direction is contrary to constructive conservation. Over the past 25 years, close to 30,000 acres of productive private irrigated ground has been acquired by Interior. Besides reducing our county tax base, the result has been to dismantle a very important infrastructure for interstate and international commerce.

The irrigated pasture of the upper marsh and ranches like Wood River Ranch, Agency Lake Ranch and now The Barnes Ranch has been some of the most productive pasture in the world. Cattle producers depend on pasture in the Klamath basin to complement winter-feeding cycles in northern California. The Klamath feeder-stockman can produce beef that is finished in Washington, Idaho, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas or Iowa. The end product is sold as far away as Japan and Korea.

We have meaningful collaboration by some Fish and Wildlife managers. But, Interior is also playing a destructive role in the dismantling of our natural resource production. From the purchase of Wood River Ranch by BLM to Reclamations acquisition of Agency Lake Ranch, the agricultural community has been told that the transferred ownership and management will result in water supply certainty. Instead we have more stringent Biological Opinions that are interpreted to reduce our water supply flexibility.

Today, Interior should not be surprised that there is little support for the acquisition of The Barnes Ranch. We do not believe claims that it will be managed for water supply certainty. The only certainty that this direction has given us is certainly less irrigated production for our local and national economy.

The one direction that Interior could take to build its relationships with private land managers is to get out of the land acquisition business. The federal government needs to reduce its land holdings. Instead of buying up private productive irrigated pasture in the Klamath basin, Interior should lead the federal family towards land dispersal. Promote constructive conservation with neighbors by developing trust. Develop trust by getting off the land acquisition track. There are many examples set by the Bureau of Reclamation on how transfer of project ownership has benefited Interior, the stakeholders and the environment. Project transfer continues to be an advocacy of The Family Farm Alliance.

Looking to the forests of our watershed opens the eyes. Private lands like those managed by the Thomas Shaw family produce a sustainable harvest with little danger of catastrophic forest fires. Yet these same lands are surrounded by national forest that has no management, no harvest and fuel loads waiting to burn the earth beyond recognition and destroy what the Shaw family has managed for excellence. Like many of the departments of Interior, the U.S. Forest Service has been castrated by inflexible implementation of NEPA, ESA and CWA. The forest can be managed as a holistic resource when it is owned by our state or a private land manager like the Shaw family.

The short term and immediate direction for Interior to follow is in regards to interpretation and implementation of the ESA. There can be flexible and responsible use of the ESA. This includes requiring current and new listings to have a recovery plan. Plans should be reviewed every five years. There should be measurable goals and objectives. The primary objective should be to de-list a species.

Science used for listing and delisting a species should not just be the “best available”, it should stand up to peer review.

Nowhere are cooperative relationships more important than in regard to NEPA. Administrative action to make the ESA a successful tool needs to address NEPA as well. All of the suggestions listed below become workable when landowners are included as applicants in the process.

1. NEPA analyses should require that value be assigned to continued agricultural production in a project area.

2. Impacts of drought and continuing water demands must be assessed and built into the NEPA process.

3. Anything that can be done to streamline the overall permitting process (NEPA, ESA, Clean Water Act, etc.) should be encouraged.

4. Agency work on biological opinions should be required to keep pace with development of NEPA compliance documents.

5. Congress should consider legislation that would allow the state’s legislative and planning process to be considered in establishing purpose and need for construction of dam and reservoir projects.

6. Developing a reasonable range of alternatives is also very important in project planning and the NEPA process. Alternatives must meet the need and purpose for the project and must be capable of being implemented. It is important to use the NEPA process to help determine the most appropriate alternative from the set of reasonable alternatives.

7. Cooperative efforts are important for moving projects through the NEPA and permitting processes. State and local sponsors should become cooperating agencies in the NEPA process if possible and if not, should be allowed to serve on the project EIS interdisciplinary team.

Planning for the future

Today we see changes in our lives dramatically affect what we live for. Today we grow crops to produce power as well as food and fiber.

Interior must recognize the slippery path that we are in danger of going down in relation to our national security. We cannot afford to risk our secure ability to produce our own food and fiber and power.

In the Klamath basin issue we have had tremendous participation in discussions revolving around FERC licensing of hydroelectricity. With the leadership of people like Steve Thompson, a small group of people has forged through discussions diverse and contentious. I am hopeful that this process will recognize collaborative choices that will result in healthy wildlife, communities and economies. We must look at all our choices and not let a minority inject their personal agendas to camouflage alternatives.

Dismantling our power capacity on the Klamath River is one symptom of a very serious problem we are starting to recognize in this nation. We have ignored the basic needs of maintaining our infrastructures. We have dike failure in Louisiana, California and Oregon. Our power production is dependent on imported oil and gas. Our power grid cannot feed hungry air conditioners in Sacramento. As you read this, the demand for water in the western United States, including the Klamath River, has increased.

I believe we can have modern hydropower with effective fish passage and modern hatchery management. We can have vibrant fisheries up and down the Pacific coast. Renewable power can complement this.

A few people in our nation are willing to see our roads; schools, reservoirs and our power production crumble from lack of maintenance and lack of planning for the future. In the case of the four big dams on the Klamath River, we see advocacy to deliberately dismantle our power production capacity.

At the fourth World Water Forum in Mexico City last March one concern was that a majority of Africans lack regular electricity, preventing them from operating pumps to extract water from wells. Some at the Forum pointed out that hydroelectricity could help.

"Investment in hydroelectric infrastructure is not a choice anymore for Africa, it is a must," Jamal Shagir, the World Bank's director of water and energy, said in a report

While we are talking about removing hydroelectric capacity that is directly linked to the development of our irrigated crop production, the World Bank recognizes the importance of hydroelectricity to bring people out of poverty and away from dependence on other nations.

While we continue to see our infrastructure of irrigated agriculture ignored and dismantled, third world nations in Africa, the Americas and Asia are trying to build what we have had for over 100 years.

Are we willing to move towards an insecure poverty or do we value the importance of hydroelectricy? Do we want to import our food fiber and power or do we believe in the security of domestic capacity and capability?

Interior has an important direction to take in the next few years. Experience of people like those of you at this listening session is about to retire. As the land mangers who have built collaboration go fishing, Interior hires more biologists and GIS specialists that do not have a clue where the water will flow after 5:00 PM on Friday afternoon.

Interior needs to replace those that innovate and care for the relationships created today with individuals capable and dedicated to our nation’s needs. This is a difficult task before you.

I use to have four or five high school students ask for summer jobs on my ranch. Today, I compete with the house construction business for reliable Hispanic workers. The president of The Family Farm Alliance, Pat O’Toole, hires shepherds from Peru to care for his livestock on the Continental divide because there are not willing, qualified shepherds in the United States.

Interior has played a vital role in the development of the West. That development goes on today at an unprecedented rate, and is placing significant pressure on all our resources. We are better off with our cooperative conservation and the incentives we present each other throughout the west.

The Family Farm Alliance will continue to advocate for taking care of the infrastructure and resource development that includes new water supplies and healthy wildlife habitat. We look forward to our improving relations the United States Department of Interior.

Thank you for your time and attention.

William D. Kennedy
Chairman of the Board
The Family Farm Alliance


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