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Message From Senator Whitsett on Klamath Geology

February 19, 2008

          The Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries recently released two maps of the Upper Klamath Basin. 

          Empirically derived data from these maps directly contradict the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality's assumptions that fertilizer and manure are meaningful  causes of the high concentration of phosphorous found in Upper Klamath Lake sediment.

           The chief geologist for DOGAMI working on this project, points out that the amount of phosphorous found in the rock formations in the high lands that surround the Upper Klamath Basin are ten times higher than normal.

           He stated that these higher than normal naturally occurring levels of phosphorous are responsible for the high levels of phosphorous found in Upper Klamath Lake's water and sediment, as well as for the high phosphorous levels in its tributary streams.

           He further stated that ranching and farming activities do not, and could not, cause these elevated phosphorous concentrations, and that steps to reduce fertilizer use or cattle grazing would have little or no impact on improving water quality in the Upper Klamath Basin. 

          The fact of the matter is, that this empirical geologic science has totally contradicted the unsubstantiated assumptions made by ODEQ, that represent the cornerstone of their Upper Klamath Lake Total Maximum Daily Load.

           Through DEQ modeling, that TMDL document erroneously assigns nearly half of the phosphorous inflow into Upper Klamath Lake to primarily man-caused agricultural sources.

           Most of the restoration efforts have been targeted at reducing these alleged man-caused sources that have now been scientifically proven to have little, if any, impact on water quality.

           This fact is further substantiated by the reality that actions already put in place that have taken more than 100,000 acres of fertile agricultural land out of production, has not improved water quality in Upper Klamath Lake, or in its tributaries, in any measurable amount.

           In short, ODEQ's specious assumptions have resulted in the decimation of the beef cattle industry located upstream from Upper Klamath Lake, the near destruction of that industry's century-old culture and economy, the investment of tens of million tax dollars in futile studies and restoration efforts, as well as contributing to the false science foundation upon which the biological assessments and biological opinions are based.

           ODEQ was advised, up to and including their agency director, that the agency's assumptions were based on modeling that could not be scientifically substantiated.

           The agency totally disregarded empirical evidence that their assumptions were wrong before the TMDL was issued, and they have steadfastly refused to revisit the TMDL to incorporate that empirical data.

           The citizens of the entire Upper Klamath Basin should speak to the ODEQ with one united voice.

          That voice should ask why  have you imposed this tragedy on our communities and what do you intend to do to rectify this disaster?

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