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Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Klamath County Cattlemen’s Association

3328 Vandenberg Road

Klamath Falls, OR 97603

 

Klamath County Commissioners

305 Main Street

Klamath Falls, OR 97601

Fax 541-883-5163         October 1, 2003
 

Dear Commissioners

Over the last month we have become aware of a dangerous legislative initiative by the Klamath Basin Rangeland Trust (KBRT) that will have a devastating impact on the cattle industry in Klamath County.

We recognize the following:

  • The cattle industry in Klamath County is a 50 million dollar per year industry.
  • Livestock are sent to our county for summer grazing from adjoining states and the economies of those states are dependent upon irrigated pasturelands in Klamath County
  • Environmental groups and the U.S. government through the Bureau of Reclamation, U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management have purchased and retired from grazing, lands formerly supplying forage for over 30,000 head of cattle in Klamath County.
  • In 2003, KBRT acted as an intermediary in selling water from close to 9,000 acres of irrigated pasture, further reducing cattle production in our county.
  • The KBRT currently advocates for funding from our federal government to dewater tens of thousands of acres of prime pasturelands, further reducing our cattle production.
  • The undesirable consequences of this direction include a loss of irrigation efficiency and a loss of food and habitat for regional and migrating waterfowl. An additional consequence is a drastic reduction in late season water release from flood-irrigated pasture.

We make a careful observation that:

  • KBRT has been orchestrating select, limited, negotiations to facilitate a long-term water buyout of large acreages of pastureland for the benefit of KBRT.

As the executive committee of the Klamath County Cattlemen’s Association:

We are opposed to rampant, inequitable, reductions in irrigated acreages, including irrigated pasturelands, in the Klamath Basin.

We advocate for the Federal Government to give deference to our state water sovereignty and our state water rights adjudication process.

We endorse the principles created by the Klamath Water Users Association in their draft water bank document dated December 12, 2003. These are as follows:

  1. Supply Reliability – in exchange for participation in the water bank, 100 % of the irrigation demand for the remaining acreage from participating producers will be satisfied, season-long. A ten-year plan will provide firm water for those remaining project lands not idled or irrigated through groundwater substitution. Agreement to participate in the water bank would be developed no later than February 1st each year, to be re-evaluated on a timely basis (March 1st, April 1st).
  2. Emphasis on Irrigation – the water bank program should attempt to maximize the acreage that receives water in a given year. Assurances must be provided that the land will receive water and stay in production when it is available under the BO. This provides benefits to local agriculture, minimizes third party impacts, supports the local economy and supports an important ecosystem that depends on flowing farm water. Clear scientific reasoning must support the justification for any water reduction. 
  3. Right of Compensation – the individual’s right to just compensation (fair market value) must be preserved.
  4. Recognition of State water rights and recognition that water rights are private property rights. 
  5. Minimize 3rd Party Impacts – to infrastructure, groundwater resources, the local economy and the agricultural environment. Deferring to state water rights law must protect existing water rights and uses. 

The executive Committee of the Klamath County Cattlemen’s Association is opposed to the deliberate actions of the KBRT that threaten to dissolve our industry. We encourage our federal and state representatives to recognize the above issues. We bring to your attention the tremendous socio-economic impact that the current activities and direction of the Klamath Basin Rangeland Trust has upon our community.

While we direct your attention to this issue, we have initiated a dialogue with KBRT to express our concerns and to influence this initiative.

Sincerely,

William D. Kennedy

President Klamath County Cattlemen’s Association

(541) 884-9106

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