Klamath Basin Irrigators Blackmailed?? Extortion??
by KBC news team, June 24, 2002
news report and commentary
forwarded by Sharon Shumate
“Blackmail.” “Extortion. ”Those words came up more than once at
the Tulelake Irrigation District board meeting Monday night with over 30
folks in attendance from the communities and various irrigation
districts. Earlier this season the irrigation districts were told that
there would be plenty of lake water to expect full irrigation deliveries
in the 2002 growing season. Secretary of the Interior Gail Norton,
Senator Smith and Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman came and opened
the headgates, and everybody (the irrigators anyway) praised the Bush
Administration. Farmers planted potatoes, onions, grain and alfalfa.
Ranchers kept cattle on their pastures.
Last week, the irrigators were told that there are presently 20,000 acre
feet of lake water being sent down the river. They were given no science
to back this decision. They were told that next year they want a written
assurance that the irrigators will somehow produce 100,000 acre feet of
water to send down the river, just because. If we do not comply, we will
possibly run out and have our water shut off. If we do comply, we, so
far, have no assurance that they will not demand more water, and more,
and more. There is no assurance they will not shut off our water anyway,
even if we do produce the water. The TID wells were purchased for the
Klamath Basin last year to provide water for the cover crops that were
planted to keep the topsoil from blowing away since there was no water
to irrigate most crops.
All winter the Klamath Water Users were developing a 10-YEAR water
banking plan with encouragement from the BOR so there would be an
emergency backup on dry years. This was to guarantee that if we stored
water, set aside some land, and temporarily sold some water rights on an
annual basis, along with pumping ground water, the irrigators would be
assured of water. Many people worked diligently on this proposal for
many long hours and many days, but now the government agencies are
disregarding the efforts of the irrigators to work together for
solutions. Last year irrigators were told to sell their water rights so
there would be more available water for those wishing to farm, however,
they shut off the water anyway.
Having watched many neighbors go bankrupt, families forced to move,
wells go dry, and wildlife die from the 2001 water shutoff, and having
been assured we could be a participant in the decision making of
long-termed plans, this surprise agenda in the middle of June comes as
another blow to the Klamath Basin. Maybe, just maybe, some questions
will be answered.
Another special TID meeting on the water crisis is planned for Monday
night, July 1, which is opened to the public. Public comment is
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