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Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Dialogue from Upper Klamath Basin and Rangeland Trust tour
This is a partial transcript of dialog and speeches, taken directly
from video by KBC. And we asked a lot of questions

If anyone local knows of a transcriber, please have them contact KBC. Then we could
have full transcripts of these tours available here.

11/03/03 by KBC

Klamath Basin Rangeland Trust (KBRT) and Upper Basin (UB) irrigators invited Project Irrigators and Tribal members on a tour of their land, sharing their goals, solutions and projects.  This is the 4th in a series of tours, which included the Klamath Project, Tribal lands, and Coastal ports. The goal of the irrigators, tribal members and coastal fishermen is to create local solutions without government agencies or unhealthy agendas or groups sabotaging their efforts and decimating their communities.   The tribes want 690,000 acres of the Winema National forest, irrigators want water certainty, and Rangeland Trust wants to rent water from UB (Upper Basin) ranchers with government funds, and they feel that they are saving water.

25 of us met at the Chiloquin High School gym.  Dan Keppen of Klamath Water Users (KWUA) and Alan Foreman of the Klamath Tribes told how these tours help explain facts and correct misinformation.

Tom Burns, past president of Modoc Point Irrigation District, described the status of Chiloquin Dam.  Since it blocks 90% of sucker habitat, according to USFWS, there was a consensus from all walks of life, to take out the dam.  He feels that there are some areas such as this where all of the participants can agree and find solutions.

Bob Sanders, past president of Sprague River Water Users for 15 years, addressed the group, "Mr Foreman, I think you'll be surprised today at the amount of restoration projects that have gone on on the Sprague River.....I've been here for 27 years, it's my home, I've seen my neighbors and my friends and they've worked hard to keep this land and to make it a better place and they've also worked hard in the River, so when everybody says that all we've done is disgrace the whole countryside, it's not a good statement because of the fact we haven't.  We've worked very hard....I was just amazed at the projects.....I hope that someday we'll be able to cure some of these problems, but the Good Lord's the only one I know who'll cure it and he's gunna put more snow in the mountains. "

Sanders said that a lot of those projects were started by the Water Users. OWRD only found 1 illegal diversion, and a report shows lack of water because of weather patterns.

Keppen said that we heard that UB felt we sicced  OWRD on UB because there was less water available. That is misinformation. OWRD thinks maybe springs and groundwater were the problem.

Burns, "Haven't inflows from Klamath Marsh showed a real drop...?"

Keppen, Flows out of Sycan are lower . We've been pushing for USFWS to do an operations plan.

Sanders, Dr. Rykbost has good figures on lower flows from the marshes

Burns, regarding uplands managed by Forest Service, "Our single biggest problem is extreme density of over stocking with over thinning program, there will be more water available...80% of the watershed in this condition.  Also roading in long-term. The biggest storage we've got is in uplands."

Sanders, Each person in the UB has spent $10,000 defending his rights, and Keppen said KWUA has spent $1 million in legal fees.

Keppen, "One of the things the NAS recommended was that some of these federal agencies need to start consulting on their activities just like the BOR had to consult on project operations....FWS are managing these refuges and water and they don't have to go through a consultation process like Rec (Reclamation) does to assess how that impacts suckers and coho."..We feel going through consultation process like Rec. does makes them more accountable.

Sanders, "There haven't been any pumps put in the river or more pumps put in the river. The # of pumps in the river have declined."

Keppen, "Rykbost studies show since the 50's, there is a 30% decline in inflows to lake."

Sanders, "I go to Upper Marsh on the Klamath Marsh and I see the old windmills standing in water that are completely deep that we used to have for stock water...there is less inflow there. That one I think we could fix because that's federal agencies..."

Keppen, "Maybe that's something we could work on together."

Sanders, "The wells were drilled in the 60's. The wells are within 3-4' of artesian.

In the van heading toward Sprague River , there was discussion by Thomas, Burns and KBC. We listened to a voice over a radio explaining all the many impressive conservation/restoration projects done along the way. 

Kurt Thomas, Rangeland Trust: The government agencies that we work with are NRCS, FWS, EPA, Dept of Ag, DOI, BOR, Kulongoski's office, and ODWR (Oregon Department of Water Resources.) "If we as a basin can present solutions that we have developed, that aren't developed by the top, but that are developed by us, they'll implement them.  They'll fund them..."

All agreed that the ONRC plan of condemning private property to give to the Tribes was stupid.

We stopped at Mr. Love's property.  Keppen said that a comprehensive plan is needed for the basin, and credit should be given for efforts. He said it's hard to get momentum when there is no credit given...people did projects then got their water shut off. Foreman said that, with so many plans, there are strings attached. Becky Hyde said that tribes and government agencies court private owners who try to do projects. 

Don Gentry, Tribal Resource Specialist, spoke of restructuring the river channels.  He explained how land has been overgrazed, "It's significant what has changed, primarily because of overgrazing and loss of that riparian forage, He also explained how little projects are fine but we need to restructure channels.

Burns asked "What is the cost?"

Gentry, "$120,000 on the Case portion, just blocking and filling in 2 cuts, so on the whole project it's a lot of money." (Keppen estimated $2 million)

Mr. Love showed us his property, 45 acres, with 8 acres of ponds, now frozen for the winter. He said there are lots of ducks and geese habitat on this 4-year project. The property used to have cattle, and he has built ponds with islands, and planted 900 pounds of wild rice seed this year. There are at least 50 big beavers so he has to fence everything they plant. There are lots of fish, and the water comes from Whitehorse Creek. The cost: $100,000.

Back in the van

Thomas: "People can't afford to do these projects, but KBRT...can go to the government and get paid big dollars over a 50 year period to do what he's doing."

Burns: "We're substituting the money  that someone would normally make off this 45 acres and having the government to pay someone to do the restoration and not graze... The government is you and I ultimately, while you may get a 55-yr solution,...I don't see it as a solution in the long run because its sponsored by the tax money of the American public and that's not going to happen forever.  There has to be a way that this transition to something that's sustainable in its own economy..."

Thomas: The Farm Bill is a billion five this year for programs to reduce grazing and farming. All is part of the U.S. Farm Policy.

Burns: This is subsidy

Thomas: No it isn't...we lease water and help restore your stream.  They won't be done by private land owners.

Burns: We're paying someone to not do something

We saw more ponds and areas with fish screens

Thomas: We need to do this while Bush administration wants to make a solution. He wants to preserve this place.

Burns  I think public funds are ok for restoration, but they should be self-supporting.

Thomas: $95/acre efficiency, $25-30 net (cattle ranching). "There isn't anyone any better than I am"...."Water is going to be worth a lot more money (in the future)"

"I'm not a true Republican--I think I'm too smart to be a true Republican or true Democrat..."

Burns: What you're dong, you have a marginal enterprise. You're looking at sustaining status quo at public expense.

Thomas: I'm trying to create a market.

Stopped and saw planted willows. Gerta Hyde, elderly lady from UB,  boarded the van. Gerta Hyde and her husband Dayton (Hawk) Hyde own the Yamsi Ranch which sits at the headwaters of the Williamson River. Now her son John runs the ranch.

Thomas: "My ultimate goal is to get the government out of the basin..." BLM, USFWS, BOR, etc.

KBC: "How do the Rangeland Trust and tribal proposals benefit each other?"

Thomas, The Tribes want restoration, fishery, and the return of the forest homelands, and the farmers want certainty. The farmers need storage, Iron Gate and Klamath Lake water, and reduction in water use so there is more water. We (KBRT) relate to the tribes by being one of the sources for water for farmers.

Gerta Hyde, How much water does sage brush use and willows: They take out junipers and plant willows??

Kurt and Tom did not know.

Gerta, "I just wondered."

Burns tells us in van about his bass pond. He said if the land stays in native hands, they keep water rights. If it goes out of native hands and is not watered for 5 years, they lose the water right.

Thomas: When the NRCS funds a  project they keep 20-30%, so a private entity like KBRT, non profit, it costs $10-15,000.

Gerta, "It's unbelievable to me how much the government can spend on things and not get enough done.  We have a little project that our watershed wanted to do and we were willing to just go ahead and do it and the little fence that they want to put up..they have $30,000 to do it.  It's just unbelievable! We don't need all this .  We gotta take responsibility on our own and do some of this work without always thinking about government funds because that's our taxpayer's money anyway."

Driving by a long wide ditch, Thomas asks Burns, "Is that the $1 million mud puddle you were talking about Tom?"

Burns: "This one was $750,000."

Gerta, "I enjoy reading Wallace Stegner...He says 'the only people that can manage the land are those that live on it and there's so much truth to that, because like with the Forest Service, they never keep anybody long enough for them to know that land, and they don't have the feeling for it as those who are living on it. I think that's one of our big problems with the government."

Simplot bought the ZX Ranch..."The (Nature) Conservancy, there's a lot of money spent on useless stuff.  That bothers me."  "I've lived on my ranch for 53 years."

Gerta regarding tribal acquisition, "The Tribe is BIA, but if there were the local tribe running it, I would be for it. There's still a lot of government money in that..."

We hay on the refuge with the DOI. They say the only way you can hay is if you are private, doing it for your own self; you're not commercial. So we have to haul the hay over the Forest Service and they say we have to have a permit because we're commercial. So we go round and round every year and it's just ridiculous."

Thomas, "If we could get fewer of them (government agencies) involved around here we'd be better off."

Burns, "The tribes, over 50 years, want to be subsidized at the rate of the Forest Service, and there's no end in site."

Gerta, "The government has millions of acres. They should be able to make it pay.  If the private people don't make it work they lose. If the Indians get all that land, they should make it pay. They shouldn't expect the government to give them $500/acre for restoration, which to me that's not very sensible."

Burns  I can see the public saying, 'We'll benefit from you (tribes) getting land.  It should be a self-sustaining entity."

KBC, "Do you have a target of land to lease?"

Thomas, "This is a tool.  We'd like to make the tool available to whoever wants to use it.  I don't set a goal on it...its voluntary. The alternative is a bigger water bank and that won't be voluntary."

KBC, "It hasn't been voluntary."

Thomas, "It wont' be voluntary in the future either." The less water that gets generated from UB or from storage or from Iron Gate, the more water that's going to get asked from the project. That's just the cold hard fact."

KBC "How much water is saved from the easements?"

Thomas, "I think the evapo-transpiration on those places will be from 2' to 2 1/2'."

KBC, "Was there standing water on it?"

Thomas, "No, when you irrigate anything, there's evapo-transpiration.

Thomas, "We have 15 - 30% of cattle on dry land pasture.  Over time it will be willows and aspen."

Gerta, "Were you pumping or flooding?"

Thomas, "Both."

Gerta, "Then the water keeps going to the lake and you're getting paid for that?"

Thomas, "I'm getting paid for the water I don't use, not the water I don't divert, because I have a 5' water right. I don't get paid for all 5', just water we predict will be evapo-transpirated and lost to the system, 2 - 2 1/2 acre feet (AF)"

Thomas, "Roger (Nicholson) is contesting me and the tribes."

Gerta, "The BIA has unlimited amount of money to fight it!"

KBC, "Are your easements just on one year easement?"

Thomas, "This is tiny...there's a lot of misinformation like we're going to dry up the Upper basin.  We aren't going to do anything of the sort.  We're a little tool the people can voluntarily use or not."

Gerta, "Does it make the difference between running cattle or not?"

Thomas, "It's more economical to lease water than to run cows."

"Everyone there has more water right than they need."

" I feel data will show that we're adding 2-2 1/2 AF water enrolled in and that we're reducing nutrient loading on the return flows...we make it cleaner and colder."

"Renters get $180 if they run their own cattle, or $200 if we lease and manage it."

Gerta, "Taking land completely out of production isn't going to be the answer in the long run.  It's not going to be sustainable."

"How long will the health of the land be good?" (if it is not irrigated)

Thomas, "It will be healthy like it used to be."

We had lunch at Sprague River cafe.  Gerta provided the natural beef from her ranch

Gerta explained the restoration they've done on their 5000 acre ranch.  They built a lake, planted willows, and fenced cattle away from the river. NRCS paid for a few little projects done by their watershed group, but they paid for most of the projects on their own. "We figure its our duty to do it."

At Jim Roots property, "(co-owner of KBRT)

Thomas showed us the stream that Root created, "Jim bought the ranch that owned the water rights to Agency Springs. He spent $600,000 on this restoration, brought in banks, gravel, plants, diverted water and made fishery. He built a lake with red banded trout."

We continued in different vans, so KBC was not in the same van as Thomas. One person in van told KBC that he doesn't like Rangeland jumping to conclusions, and doesn't know what they're trying to achieve. "I'm not sure it's going to benefit anyone except maybe the Rangeland Trust people. It's not going to benefit anyone else." He also questioned if there had been any studies showing how much water used to go back into the lake from agricultural runoff.

Thomas showed us more of Root's property, with stream and meanders that he built. The USFWS, ODWR, and Tribes participated in this project. It is a spawning stream for red band trout. It cost "$300,000 for 1/4 of a mile".

Becky Hyde said that it is $1,000,000 to restore meanders in a river.

Thomas explained to Gerta that, "the first year was the BOR (who paid KBRT). It came out of Oklahoma,  that JC Watts district,  he quit about that time so they stole a bunch of  money from the bureau budget in Oklahoma because he wasn't there to defend it."

Gerta, "But it's all Federal money?"

Thomas, "It was all Federal money."

Gerta, "It comes right out of our pockets!"

Thomas, "That's exactly right." This last year it came from the Dept. of AG, EPA, FWS, and BOR."

At 7 Mile Creek, Thomas explained to the whole group about the project and about KBRT.

Thomas told how KBRT  hired someone to build an 11 mile fence.

Thomas, KBRT is nonprofit so "You're not taxed....If you pay 'preferential moneys' out, the tax is 9,000%. So they really hammer you.  These 501C3's are very precious...We act as an intermediary between the government and landowners in a water marketing plan....They paid us the first 2 years $300 per acre for any acres we signed up.  We had a limit of 3000 acres the first year, 9000 last year....We pay the landowners $180 and use the rest for the science to show the government they're getting what they pay for"

We contend 3 things:

1, there is an evapo transpiration component which we are going to add to the stream by virtue of not using it on the ranch.  That water that would have been evaporated or transpirated by the plant.

2. We contend that by not irrigating we will leave water in the stream and therefore leave it colder so our temperature improvement is an advantage,

3. and we contend that by not taking that water in sheet flow across the water that does evapo-transpirate, it drains back and carries a nutrient load, which we contend is harmful to the lake. 

"The government is paying us for all 3 of those."

" KBRT is monitoring it with their own scientist, and USGS will review it....KBRT is voluntary...unlike the water bank it is purely voluntary." {If the Project does not water bank, then we are threatened with a water shut-off, even though we are threatened with shut-off regardless of the water bank.  Rangeland says it is voluntary, however if we do not support it, we will have a larger water bank demanded of us...so, is that voluntary? KBC}

A tour guest, I've heard that those irrigating have to use more water because land isn't saturated with their neighbor's non-irrigation.

Thomas, "That's just nonsense, I don't think people can put more water on this ground than they possibly can."

Sanders, "On the Walden rights, if you don't irrigate every year, you lose your  Walden rights...those 1864 rights?"

Thomas, "I don't think that's true...the attorney says that's nonsense, that's just not true."

"KBRT might be a facilitator between NRCS...they take 20%...20% of that goes to the NRCS to buy more pickups: 2 1/2 million. We can do it cheaper than that.  We've done it for free so far because it's worth doing...It's a public entity...The Bureau will always buy some water from us because they're an essential piece because they're part of the problem....Marshal (Staunton) and Johnny Crawford and the Water Users have to get involved and say 'we'll support this but we want credit.'"

 KBC, "At a Water User's meeting you said you weren't going to do this unless we got credit. We didn't get credit so there may be some reluctance to support this."

Thomas, "We haven't done anything yet!  It's been uphill.  It's been like walking on glass.  We haven't done anything yet.  We had a pilot project of 3000 acres and Jim and I represent 2, come on! ....The next year we got 9...we haven't done anything yet....it is important the Tulelake Project gets credit for what we do in the UB. I'm not opposed to the Yurok and Hoopas getting credit but first  I want the UB to get credit....I've heard some of the folks in Washington want to get Westlands involved.....how do I get them credit? I get them credit by virtue of their support and so far we don't have the unswerving support of the lower basin.....I think there already is credit given to the Project, and I would suggest to you that one of the ways credit got given to the Project was a change of  year type.  That didn't happen locally.  You think? It happened in DC and it happened because of some of the efforts in this basin to create a fix.  It happened because Bob Gasser and Johnny Crawford  talked to some guys on top of Sheepy Ridge about what they're trying to do.  It happened because of KBRT....because we're making an attempt at a solution...."

KBC "The public is concerned about secret documents, and how can we support KBRT if we can't see what's on these papers?"

Thomas, "There are no secret documents.  There's no documents for one thing....There's a piece of paper that I wrote down and it has 12 points on it, there have to be 500 copies circulating around this basin....KWUA, Smith, County Commissioners, Walden...I delivered 4 or 5 to Tulelake Growers Association and we had 150 people on the Sprague, and Cattlemen's...There's nothing clandestine about this thing....We had 2 meetings that were private...We ended up with these 12 points that we all think are pretty good ideas.  The Tulelake farmers don't like 3, Tribes don't like 4, but taken in a whole, everyone kind of likes the whole package.  The 12 of us support it."

A bit later, Gerta and Thomas,

Thomas, "We couldn't make enough money to compete with nonprofit, non-taxed donations from people that want to own cattle.  With cattle and pigs, if we can't make these places economic; over time they will go into the hands of those people

Gerta cut him off, "I don't want tax payer's money to make me profitable!"

Thomas, "I think tax payers money already does!"

Gerta, "I don't think that's how we should manage our ranches."

Thomas, "That's a fact of life."

Gerta, "It doesn't have to be because the  people that are trying to make a living and are making a living are paying taxes.. .are you going to pay taxes on that money?"

Thomas, "Sure, I'm not a non profit, I'm just Kurt Thomas."

Thomas showed us McIntyre's land, "This is a place that hasn't been irrigated for about 5 years....I think he sold his whole water right. I don't think his water right is redeemable....he's had it 4 or 5 years, had it, put this easement in place, got a big tax write-off, put it up for sale."
(Letter to KBC from Kurt Thomas, sent 11/13/03 regarding McIntyre's land.)

Gerta, "I don't believe that this is a non-irrigated area!" (there was a big artesian well on the property)

Thomas, "Those of us that are in the cattle business are competing with people that are subsidized.  And for us to turn our back on a subsidy if for us to turn our back on our children, now I'm dead serious about that. If you don't take advantage of these economic programs they will not stay in your family's name."

Gerta, "Ours will!"

 

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