The Stand at Klamath Falls
Report Number Fourteen - US BOR and AOS Support Farmers
By: Jeff Head, February 20, 2002
[With Reports from Klamath and the Associated Press]

As spring draws near and the time for planting in preparation for this year's growing season draws close (and the time for getting loans to accomplish the same), the agricultural families in the Klamath Basin were in need of good news, news that would solidify their water rights and supply. They got that good news on January 28th in the 2002 Bureau of Reclamation preliminaty water management strategy and in the finding of the National Acadamy of Sciences released on February 3rd.

Two news reports are attached detailing both of these important, "watershed" announcements which will hopefully be used to reverse the tyranical and frivolous rulings that were used against the farmers in the Klamath Basin last year to deny them of their water rights.

Klamath Article on the Bureau of Reclamation Preliminary Strategy

Tide turns in Basin water fight (Klamath)

Preliminary project strategy gives higher water priority to farmers
A preliminary water management strategy released by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation today would grant significantly greater priority to farmers in the battle for water in the Upper Klamath Basin.

A draft biological assessment for the Klamath Reclamation Project’s 2002 operations states anyone who wants to use water for purposes other than irrigation, including protection of endangered fish, should buy the water from farmers. The move by the Bureau of Reclamation, likely to draw determined opposition, represents a complete turnabout from government policy in recent years, when the highest priority for use of water was given to protecting endangered fish and meeting trust obligations for Indian tribes.

The shift in priorities more closely matches earlier water management schemes, including the 1957 Klamath River Compact, which established domestic and agricultural uses as the highest priorities.

Details of the biological assessment were closely guarded by federal officials, but a source familiar with the assessment said it would establish “a water bank for the purchase of water for environmental purposes.”

John Keyes, commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and Bennett Raley, assistant secretary of the Department of Interior, were scheduled to release information to the media at 4:30 this afternoon at the bureau’s area office in Klamath Falls.

Various parties interested in water issues were being briefed on the announcement today.

Jeff McCracken, spokesman for the bureau’s Mid-Pacific Region office in Sacramento, confirmed a draft biological assessment for the Klamath Project was to be released today. The assessment is a critical step in the process of developing an operations plan that includes allocations of water for agriculture, wildlife refuges and river flows.

“This particular document will tell what we think we can do, but it doesn’t give a basic allocation at this point,” McCracken said this morning.

A biological assessment evaluates the needs for water and the requirements to protect endangered species that may be affected by operation of the Klamath Project. The list of species includes bald eagles, shortnose suckers, Lost River suckers and coho salmon.

The bureau will take comments on the draft assessment, and produce a final assessment. That document, in turn, will be the subject of consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, which are responsible for protecting endangered species.

Farmers are hoping the draft biological assessment will offer them some hope of receiving irrigation water this year, after most of them received a small fraction of their normal supply last year.

“All I’ve heard is that it is coming out today and we will be pleasantly surprised,” said Donnie Boyd of Floyd A. Boyd Co., a farm implement dealership in Merrill. “I’m a skeptic, but we’ll see.”

Although the biological assessment has been delayed by several weeks while undergoing review in Washington, D.C., McCracken said the bureau should be able to complete consultation on endangered species and produce a final operations plan before the beginning of the irrigation season in April.

“We’re comfortable that we’re going to be able to finalize this in time for the growers’ season this year,” McCracken said. McCracken acknowledged that snowpack conditions are favorable this winter.

“I think the weather conditions certainly are much much better than they were at this time last year,” McCracken said. “We’re happy that there’s a lot more snow in the mountains than there was last year.

My thoughts on this very surprising and very hopeful development:

I have a friend in the BOR management who knows of John Keyes, the new commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation., who indicates that Keyes is also a supporter of the farmers and will do what he can to help them. This preliminary management strategy seems to support that 100% and is an answer to prayer. Now, whether it holds up is the issue. I met McCracken at the headgates last year and do not trust him and feel he is a holdover form the previous administration. He is a pure PR/Administrator and will say what he or his superiors feels needs to be said.

The key will be what Gale Norton does and how involved Bush gets in making good on his words in Oregon a few weeks ago. This step is very hopeful and we will just have to see how involved and junk-yard mean they get about the fight the enviro's and liberal/socialists are sure to put up. That level of intensity in defending this assessment will tell us if it is for real or just a strawman.

Having said that, this is real reason for hope. We shall see ... many continue to work and pray out here int he west for a peaceful resolution ... I know many are doing the same all over the nation. These two recent events, the President's statements a few weeks ago and this assessment both tend to indicate that Bush and his administration does in fact mean what it says on this issue and will resolve the situation properly and favorably for the farmers.

We are all hoping and praying that it in fact comes about that way. ... but given last year, also preparing in case it does not

AP report on the Finding of the National Acadamy of Sciences

Klamath Water Cutoff Scrutinized,br> Review Finds Flaws in Federal Biological Opinions That Allowed Klamath Water Cutoff

The Associated Press

Feb. 3
A National Academy of Sciences report found that government scientists did not have enough evidence to issue biological opinions that led authorities to cut off irrigation water to farmers last summer to protect endangered and threatened fish.

The academy reviewed biological opinions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on endangered suckers in the Upper Klamath Lake and the National Marine Fisheries Service on threatened coho salmon in the Klamath River. A copy of the review was obtained by The Associated Press.

The interim report a final version is due out next year appeared a small victory for farmers, who for months have angrily questioned the findings that led to the water cutoff. The review will be officially released Wednesday.

In 2001, federal agencies increased the minimum water level requirement for Upper Klamath Lake and the Klamath River. The new levels forced government agencies to choose between fish and farmers on the 220,000-acre Klamath Reclamation Project spanning southern Oregon and northern California. The Upper Klamath Lake is the project's main water source.

The academy report found there was not enough specific evidence to justify the decision by the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service to raise the water levels for coho salmon and sucker fish.

"Based on our evaluation, if this was another drought year the farmers would get more water," said Peter Moyle, a committee member and professor of fish biology at University of California-Davis. "The basic idea was that the information just wasn't there to justify the kinds of conclusions that were there."

Moyle said detailed studies that compare sucker fish populations with water levels in Upper Klamath Lake weren't available and those types of studies take years to accomplish.

As for the Klamath River coho salmon, the data available doesn't prove that increased summer stream flows benefit the fish, Moyle said. Also, water used to increase Klamath River flows would come from reservoirs, where the water is too warm for the fragile coho, he said.

Moyle said the committee agreed with many recommendations by the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service. Those proposals include inserting screens over irrigation pipes so sucker fish don't get shunted into fields and adding gravel beds upstream so the fish can lay their eggs there. Interior Secretary Gale Norton called for the review last year after farmers expressed doubt over the validity of the government's science.

A full report from the academy, taking a broader view of the situation, is due next year. That report will be presented to Norton.

Both of these turn events are very hopeful. They represent a LONG overdue turn by this administration to correct the outlandish and tyranical circumstances which developed last year.

Let there be no mistake. The prior administration would probably not have responded in this way, even in an overdue fashion. It would probably have led to worsening conditions and ultimate physical and potentially violent confrontation.

This administration is responding, thank God, albeit in a very delinquent fashion and based on political motivations in my opinion, rather than simply for the reason that they will do what is right to protect the God-given rights of their citizens. A constitutional crisis pitting the executive branch against the judicial branch and possibly involving the legislative branch should have been forced last year to resolve this isuue. That it wasn;t just means that the ultimate resolution, the ending of the Endangered Species Act and the restoration of the rights of these farmers to their water, has just been put off.

Also, make no mistake, without the couragous actions of a few of these find, God-fearing and patrioticv farmers last summer, the current actions returning things to a status qou, would not be occuring in my opinion.

Now, we all look forward to the time in April when the real truth of the matter is revealed,. That is when the headgates are reopened and THE WATER FLOWS AGAIN IN THE KLAMATH BASIN. until that time, although these developments are very hopeful, they are still nothing but words.




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