Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
This spring the farmers, FWS, and Bureau of Reclamation formed a partnership regarding water management of the refuges. Unlike before, the Bureau was flexible in its water allocation. The FWS in May and June dewatered a seasonal wetlands, a necessary event, sending 10,000 acre feet (AF) of water down the Klamath River to meet requirements of the biological opinion (BO). (remember, this BO was created from the agenda-driven Hardy studies--Hardy was hired by the Department of Justice and Bureau of Indian Affairs to go against the farmers in the water adjudication litigation. This lake level/river flow management scheme was not peer reviewed, and later was considered unjust by the National Academy of Science and other studies--see science page. We are still being forced to abide by this BO, even though proven flawed, and even though the river flow is 30% higher now than is was before the Klamath Project was built, according to the Bureau of Reclamation undepleted flow study)
The past few years when the FWS has dewatered a wetland, they have been forced to re-circulate other wetland and irrigation water, which, like last year, causes poor water quality. This year some of this water was returned by the Bureau from fresh sources to re-water the wetland, so consequently the water quality now is healthy. And this year our permanent wetlands remain in great shape, with three times as much wetlands as last year. As refuge manager Ron Cole stated, it isn't so much about 'how much' water as about the 'timelines' and water management. And they need to time the water deliveries to offset evaporation from the wetlands. Last summer it was so shallow, it effected much wildlife like swans and diver ducks. Cooperation and flexibility this summer provided the 2 1/2 feet of water needed.
Dave Mauser explained that the seasonal marshes provide food for birds and also succession. This is cost effective, providing bird feed and reducing water need in the summer. The farmers leave 1/4 of their crops for the birds.
After the fields have been under a wetlands for two years in a rotating wetland regime, they are ready to be certified organic by the next person who farms this ground. On Lower Klamath alone this year, over 2500 acres were grown organically. Yields of grain grown organically were about as high per acre as conventional farming, however the price for organic grain was twice as high as conventional. An additional benefit to farmers is that occasionally having wetlands on this farmland will eliminate many of the crop pests and diseases.
The seasonal marshlands also provide 1000 to 2000 pounds of seeds per acre which feeds many birds. Farmed grain crops provide about the same tonnage for the birds, all being essential to feeding the wildlife. On refuge and non-refuge land, when there is no water, thus no crops or bird feed, this decimates much of our local wildlife. Being the most important migratory bird flyway in the West, keeping our farms and refuges whole is essential to our waterfowl. Fran Mais, FWS, said certain species prefer grain; you need different grains and seeds for the different species. The potato crops feed white fronted geese. And pronghorn antelope have been seen by the refuge manager eating onion tops. According to Mais, "you need the mix."
Fortunate for our farm community and our refuges, Manager Ron Cole sees the advantage of working with the local community rather than viewing them as enemies. He realizes that we grow over 50 % of the wildlife food, and we use less water to sprinkle our crops than wetlands consume. He also knows, with past roots here, that most farmers are conscientious caretakers of the resources and wildlife. With his foresight in working with the community to identify and achieve common goals, our resources can better be used to achieve these goals rather than to fight frivolous lawsuits by agenda-driven 'environmental' groups and government agencies. In addition we have Klamath Water Users Executive Director Dan Keppen, a past manager with the Bureau of Reclamation, who realizes the importance of working together with common goals of preserving wildlife while at the same time preserving agriculture.
Thanks to managers like Cole and Keppen, yes, even in this agenda-attacked Klamath Basin, there is still hope.
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:15 AM Pacific
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