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Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Storage still crucial to support farming

Published May 18, 2004

Like the stock market, agriculture abhors uncertainty. So, the continued lack of certainty afflicting the Klamath Basin water situation bodes ill for the future.

Agriculture in the Basin needs good markets, good buyers, and those buyers need to be assured that contracts with Basin farmers can be honored as written. Farmers, too, need assurance that they can supply the commodities they've contracted to supply and that requires a sure supply of water.

Added to the continued lack of certainty over Basin water supplies is the realization that while the Bush administration has generally been sympathetic to farmers in the Basin, where federal irrigation projects were established in an era when such measures ensuring steady and cheap supplies of food were considered good things, it could be replaced in seven months by one more closely allied to those who want to shut down Basin agriculture.

Such things as water banks, now being used in the Basin to keep more water available for later use, are, at best, short-term "solutions" that are too expensive to become long-term ones. That's something that should be noted as the federal deficit builds, and expenses become increasingly challenged, no matter which political party wins the White House in November.

That's why Basin interests must continue to push hard for answers aimed at making the best uses of what water falls in the form of rain and snow - such projects as the Barnes Ranch and Long Lake.

These storage projects, too, are costly, but are the best hope for the future. They won't increase rainwater or snowmelt, but would make maximum use of what exists.

There may be a window for heavy federal investments in solving Basin water issues on terms favorable to the Basin, and it may close. Irrigators, the business community and anyone else interested in seeing the local economy and culture survive need to continue to push hard for permanent answers inherent in increased storage.

The "H&N view" represents the opinion of the newspaper's editorial board, which consists of Publisher John Walker, Editor Tim Fought, City Editor Todd Kepple and Opinion Editor Pat Bushey.


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