agreement may be farming's spotted owl
Guest Comment for the Capital Press 12/11/08
Basin has a rich history of timber and agriculture as our main
industries. The hard-working citizens of the basin have been
richly blessed by the natural beauty of our area and being able to
work with our natural resources.
We all know what happened to the timber industry, and I see
agriculture being directed down the same path. Our agriculture
industry is continually changing and adapting to the demands of
special interest groups. This is why I feel the Klamath Basin
Restoration Agreement, as written, is not beneficial to all of the
Klamath Basin. Agriculturalists continue to be excellent stewards
of the land, honing technology to increase productivity and
protecting the natural resources that are so near and dear to us
A fair and equitable basin-wide settlement has always been the
ideal solution for the water issues in the Klamath Basin. Klamath
Off Project Irrigators do not prefer litigation. Litigation is
expensive, time-consuming and detrimental to the entire community.
We have to pay our attorney bills just as the project irrigators
A recent commentary in the local newspaper announcing support for
the current settlement agreement was signed by 74 individuals. A
petition against the current settlement agreement, as written,
with close to 300 off-project individuals along with another
petition from Siskiyou County with 250 signatures, many of which
are tribal members against the agreement, as written, has been
submitted to the Klamath County commissioners.
The Klamath Basin Alliance has a separate petition with more than
600 signatures against the current settlement. It's apparent there
is no widespread support in the basin for the current agreement as
written. In the Reclamation Project, the board of directors of the
various irrigation districts have endorsed the current agreement.
However, many of the individual project irrigators openly do not
favor the agreement and acknowledge that it is not an equitable
Most people admit that they haven't read the agreement. It isn't
an easy read, but it doesn't take long to see major flaws and the
inequity for both project irrigators and off-project irrigators.
Some say the current agreement is the best we can do. I do not
believe that is the case. If implemented, the current agreement,
as written, will adversely affect all irrigators in the basin,
including all surface irrigators and eventually all groundwater
irrigators. Ultimately it will adversely affect the economy of the
entire basin. This will be agriculture's "spotted owl."
There have been claims that there is no organized group
representing off-project irrigators.
That claim is absolutely false.
Already in place is the Klamath Off Project Water Users
Association Power Group, which has been engaged in the power
issues since 2005. Sprague River Water Resource Foundation and the
Resource Conservancy umbrella organization represent virtually all
of the contestants in the adjudication, and they represent the
vast majority of all off-project irrigators. Sprague River Water
Resource Foundation has been active in water-related issues for
more than 25 years, settling many claims in the adjudication.
Resource Conservancy has been actively engaged in the issues for
more than 11 years. To form yet another group seems redundant.
The Klamath County commissioners organized and facilitated
meetings between project irrigators, the Klamath Tribes and an
acceptable off-project water user representation months ago to
keep dialogue moving and to look for common ground.
Unfortunately for the Klamath Basin, the project irrigators and
Klamath Tribes refuse to meet with us.
We have been labeled as uncooperative and uncompromising. Yet the
Off Project Water Users Power Group, Sprague River Water Resource
Foundation and Resource Conservancy are the only groups that are
still willing and waiting for the meetings to take place. It is
quite obvious that the "closed door" meetings with all the
confidentiality agreements in place have one purpose - keep the
public from knowing what is going on in secret. These are the
public's natural resources being discussed with our tax dollars
and the power ratepayers who are going to pay the ultimate price.
I encourage everyone to read through this settlement agreement
completely and realize what is at stake here and what you will be
giving up if you sign on the dotted line to accept it as written.
Remember what one of our nations great founding fathers, Benjamin
Franklin, said, "They that can give up essential liberty to
purchase a little temporary safety deserves neither liberty nor
Tom Mallams has been an irrigator in the Upper Basin for over
30 years and has been active in agricultural and water issues for
more than 25 years. He is president of Klamath Off-Project Water
Users Association Power Group, serves on the board of directors
for Klamath Soil and Water Conservation District, currently chairs
the Headwaters Local Advisory Committee and is past president of
Sprague River Water Users Association.