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 welcomed.

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