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Attention Mr. Richard Smith:
from Gail Hildreth Whitsett
May 18, 2005 (regarding Barnes federal acquisition)

I would like to make some scientific and then personal comments regarding the proposed acquisition of the Barnes Ranch to convert into a national wildlife refuge around Upper Klamath Lake.

For nearly four years I have been active in the geological scientific review of the Upper Basin, from the ODEQ’s Upper Klamath Lake TMDL Advisory Board to being an invited peer reviewer the Oregon Water Resources Department’s most recent ground water study in Klamath County. I believe I have sat in on nearly every meeting regarding the geology and physical science oriented aspects of the basin and its waters. My comments are related to this body of knowledge. My opinions follow:

  1. Breaching the dikes around the Barnes property will have the effect of heating the waters left trapped in subsided areas behind the dikes. There will not be a circulating affect of the lake, only an initial flow inward of the lake’s already shallow and warm waters into the lower elevation areas behind the dikes. The water will suspend the fine soil profile of the farm and grazing land and then stagnate and heat the shallow water over the majority of the land area.
  2. The ODEQ’s Upper Klamath Lake TMDL will be further violated through this re-suspension and periodic oxidation of the heavy peat soils, causing the freeing of additional naturally occurring phosphorus into the Lake waters.
  3. Gradually the land behind the dikes will infill with sediment and the already limited water storage capacity of the Barnes Ranch will be negligible. Your actions will cause the accelerated geological evolution of the lake into a playa. It has been reported several times, in engineering reports that had the lake not been diked off initially, it would have been nonexistent as a lake today. It is a very old and dying system already and the misinformed idea that allowing the lake to revert to some natural state will prolong its longevity, is against all geologic scientific fact we base the science on today. In fact, it will accelerate the lake’s physical demise.
  4. Your agency has a huge number of biologists and most that I have met have little/no professional geologic/ engineering background. Consequently many of the problems the state and federal government faces today with regard to the Upper Klamath Basin water systems is a direct result of that basic lack of knowledge. Many federal staff in the Basin, while pursuing their own agendas to return the lake to "a natural state" have denied the scientific public input brought to them repeatedly by very well informed and educated individuals.
  5. In 2003, Jonathan La Marche a hydrologist from the Oregon Water Resources Department presented a scientific paper on water storage around Upper Klamath Lake, which shows that water storage would have been non-existent in four out of the last ten years on lands surrounding the Upper Lake. The idea of spending multi-millions of public tax dollars for land that will be nothing more than "lakeside" property many years is astonishing.
  6. Additionally, ranches surrounding the Barnes property will sustain flooding for periods of time when the Barnes property is flooded. Is it your plan to buyout these ranches as well? Why not simply state the purpose initially and stop the pretense. If the federal agencies want to control and own all of the land around Upper Klamath Lake, then say so, instead of doing so piece by piece.

This is an ill informed acquisition for the stated purpose of water storage and a total waste of money of the part of the federal government. When will it become apparent to the bureaucracies that the more land put into marsh throughout the Basin, the less water becomes available for any purpose, due to natural heating, evaporation and infilling through erosional processes?

Thank you for the opportunity to discuss this with you. Your agency would be well advised to talk with some of the older individuals who remember their parents working the areas around the Upper Lake. They would find that it was not unusual prior to diking, to be able to walk across the mud flats from some of the surrounding areas into what we now would call the middle of the north part of the lake. There is much history to be learned from the locals, instead they are often treated with distain by agency personnel.

Gail Hildreth Whitsett

900 Court St. Rm S-302

Salem, Oregon 97301





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