Oregon Water Resources Dept devastating Klamath Basin economy, families

Gail Whitsett

Rep. Gail Whitsett (R-Klamath Falls)

A combination of actions taken by the Oregon Water Resources Department has resulted in denying irrigation water to much of the ranching and farming community in the Upper Klamath River Basin.

Make no mistake, the severity of the current meteorological drought would make meeting all Upper Basin irrigation needs difficult at best.

The farming and ranching communities have faced drought before but have always been able to work together to grow enough livestock and crops to survive until precipitation returned.

A series of actions taken, and not taken, by the Oregon Water Resources Department has completely changed the playing field. Those Department decisions will result in denial of all irrigation water delivery for a large segment of the farming and ranching community and significantly curtailed water deliveries to virtually all agricultural interests in the Upper Klamath River Basin.

First, the Department’s final determination in the Klamath River Adjudication was inexplicably contradictory. To begin with, they rightfully agreed with previous Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rulings and determined the Klamath Tribes own the highest priority water right dated time immemorial. But they then incomprehensibly totally ignored the rest of that Ninth Circuit Court decision.

That further Ninth Circuit ruling limited the amount of Tribal water to the amount of water that was being used for a moderate living standard by the Tribes at the time the reservation was sold to the federal government.

In complete contradiction to that ruling, the Department determined that the Tribes were entitled to virtually all of the water in most of the tributaries to Upper Klamath Lake for the purpose of hunting, fishing and gathering, thus overturning the Ninth Circuit Court’s ruling.

The Department has failed to challenge the federal  Biological Opinions that has reallocated most of the water stored in Upper Klamath Lake to allegedly endangered species.

That reallocation has been carried out for years without a water right.

The Department has failed to challenge the state of California’s long standing practice of mining water from Oregon aquifers.

They deny Oregon irrigators access to groundwater while allowing their neighbors across the state line to pump water out from under Oregon land.

Moreover, they have delayed issuing many certificates for irrigation wells for at least the past four years.

Meanwhile, the Department participated in a groundwater study that determined that the regional aquifer discharges in part into the Scenic Klamath River.

Using the result of that study, the Department now plans to deny those delayed certificates and all new groundwater appropriations allegedly because they might reduce flows in that allegedly scenic river.

Further, the Department has made clear that they may revoke the certificates of many existing irrigation wells for the same specious reasons.

Look who is supporting the Oregon Water Resources Department. You will not find agricultural, forestry, or natural resources economic entities supporting the Department’s budget. The groups include:

  • 1000 Friends of Oregon
  • American Rivers
  • Audobon Society
  • Beyond Toxics
  • Center for Biological Diversity
  • Climate Solutions
  • Defenders of Wildlife
  • Environment Oregon
  • National Wildlife Federation
  • Oregon Environmental Council
  • Oregon League of Conservation Voters
  • Oregon Wild
  • Rogue Riverkeepers
  • Sierra Club Oregon Chapter
  • Trout Unlimited
  • Tualatin Riverkeepers
  • WaterWatch of Oregon
  • Wild Salmon Center
  • Willamette Riverkeepers

From their series of actions and inactions in the Upper Klamath River Basin, I can only conclude that the Oregon Water Resources Department no longer represents the interests of Oregon’s irrigated agriculture.

The Klamath County Assessor and various economic consultants estimate an economic loss of $500 MILLION dollars to the area in just this year alone from this water cut off. Can you imagine if the area near you sustained economic damages and loss of $500 Million in the next few months and then that much for the foreseeable future, year after year? Certainly Klamath County and the state of Oregon cannot withstand economic devastation of this magnitude, yet it is happening right now. To further complicate this issue, it is our own Oregon Water Resources Department that ordered the administrative ruling that appears to overturn the Ninth Circuit Court’s judicial ruling. It will be years before judicial branch challenges to this agency’s decision can work their way through the federal court system.

It will be far too late for the farms and ranches, the families, the livestock and crops of the Klamath Basin by then. An estimated 100,000 head of cattle in the upper basin will need to be liquidated or removed this summer from the area. Cattle and dairy combined have ranked as Oregon’s second largest agricultural commodity. Klamath County ranks among the largest cattle producers in Oregon. Klamath County is a major contributor overall to Oregon’s healthy and massive agricultural sector and this administrative ruling will undoubtedly be felt throughout Oregon and our economy. We as a state cannot afford to be at the mercy of an agency with its own agenda.

  • .

    Common sense ought attend water distribution in the Klamath Basin – and, NOT kowtowing to supercilious ‘aboriginal’ treaty rites re-contexted in modern era wampunism that d’ohs too far.

    • 3H

      “NOT kowtowing to supercilious ‘aboriginal’ treaty rites re-contexted in modern era wampunism that d’ohs too far.”
      Wow. Silly treaties.
      Ummm.. and nice job Mr. Bigot. As Rupert would say, I think you’re done here. There is absolutely no reason (not that there was) to take you seriously anymore.

      • .

        Wail know! Look out for what ‘opinionated’ 3H is preaching out unto those of his conspire!

        Lo, bigots by any referendum-dum are everywhere – too, das vamp, 3H, who cannot see his imagery in anything mirrored his poison-banality.

        Pay attention you Dem schlep-arooney! Along with the slyly partisan DNC, aboriginal Amerinds were bigots , too… who enslaved other tribes who did not kowtow to their economic and bragging rites paradigms.

        Got that, shill-grim?

        Meanwhile, the Klamath region tribal entities, aka, Indian givers and redundant taker backers for a price of curse, demand more than they reserve – and d’oh, want control over water flow and the farmers who see their cojones as no michael moore than skipping stones over and embellishing their Lake Placidity. Nuts!

        Stop the insanity now, foreclose on the BIA’s billions of dollars $quandered Indiananity and compel the tribal entities to enjoin in the melting pot lest their bucks and cherished sucker rites be drouthed away.

        • 3H

          “… were bigots, too…”
          So you’re admitting that you are a bigot? That is the first step towards getting help.

          • .

            You don’t see yourself as a bigot?
            Well hang your tongue under a left wing spigot and take to slaking the flow on down into a barrel of left wing sorrows and left wing gaffes you mental midget! Selah!

          • 3H

            No, I don’t.

            But you do see yourself as one, don’t you?

          • .

            3H, look into a mirror and see an undeniable bigot.

            If none appears, you’re probably a vampire with a stake up in the same corral shared with your head.

          • 3H

            I suppose that makes you feel better – assuming that everyone is just as bad as yourself. Probably makes it easier to look in the mirror. I’ve probably extended this conversation much longer than I should have, so I leave the last word to you. 🙂

          • .

            Bug off and drone out in BlueOregon.Con, mister bee bee brain. That’ where you really bong!

          • .

            You insipid dolt’nheimer! Take your pathos over to BlueOregon ‘n sell your wares there and/or grog on to MoveOn.org or any other snog manifesting bovine scatology emanating from what’s left of US!

  • Ballistic45

    Welcome to the world of Agenda 21, as it spreads across Oregon under all kinds of excuses to deny Property Rights, Water, Food unless GIVEN by the GOVERNMENT… WAKE UP America, Agenda 21 is here… The take over of Environmental use by Government, hands them absolute control over EVERY aspect of our lives…

    • DavidAppell

      Please put down your remote control, or at least tune away from Fox News. Agenda 21 is not law in the United States.

      • .

        Soothe sayeth David Appell-BranchDavidian and supreme courtier of anything All Goring sways.

      • Ballistic45


        Many things have not “Passed” by the peoples representatives in Congress but are being implemented anyway via Executive Orders and Agency Regulations… Now don’t get all Demorat on me, the Bush family was very much in favor of Agenda 21 also… Check the website above and you will find that Agenda 21 is very much alive and well inside the United States.. From all levels of City, County, State and Federal levels… Pull your head out of your posterior David, take a DEEP BREATH and look around…. Remember the Australian Politician exposing Agenda 21 video? Remember the Buzz word for Agenda 21 is Sustainable Development.. But luckily for YOU David, the UN did concede the Agenda 21 name in the Link above, but of course it has NOTHING to do with the USA information that follows listed in that same link…

  • DavidAppell

    We are in the early days of climate change, with much more warming ahead. You can expect many, many more stories about water shortages, here in Oregon and across the world. Don’t say no one every warned you.

    • .

      Drip drip drop you blade runner in a fluid-dance of fantasy!

      Retire now and bury yourself of the charms of Daryl Hannah or drown yourself in the canals of Martian fantasy…not coming to the blue planet anytime soon unless Al Gore invents s’more hip- hopcracy.

    • Ballistic45

      You’re RIGHT, we are ALWAYS in the middle of Climate Change.. We are ALWAYS headed for Warming or Cooling trends… The Earth has always cycled its weather patterns, so your point is? Oh, OH, I know, let no crisis, REAL or MADE UP go un-exploited… NOW its MANS Fault, therefore you must control man… And how is this going to stop a damn thing, we should all go back to Hunter Gathering Tribes and killing off 90 percent of mankind to do it? Nah, the Liberals just want a Elitist Ruling class over a greatly reduced population of servant class who are all confined in cities with no property or rights and get only what the Elitist give them leaving the rest of the world to only the Elitist use and pleasure.. Good Plan if everyone else sits still for it..

      • 3H

        “NOW its MANS Fault, therefore you must control man…”
        If it is, as I believe, the fault of humans, then what would the correct answer be? There is no one elses behavior that can be addressed to fix the problem.
        People steal from other people. We don’t throw up our hands and claim that nothing can be done. We attempt to control and correct the behavior. Right? Unless you are in favor of no laws at all, addressing human contributions to global warming by addressing the behavior makes perfect sense.

        • .

          Michel Moore inane banter/blather by numb other than 3H. Give him the gong or something else not politically suggestible here!

        • Ballistic45

          3H, I would first be damn sure it IS man’s fault before I infringe on man’s Liberties.. There is no conclusive proof that it is man’s fault or natural cycling that we STILL DON”T UNDERSTAND.. For instance, in a response to Obama’s Global Warming Plan;
          He did not even take into account the role the Sun Cycle and activities play in Earth’s Weather patterns..

          The Earth’s temperature has not risen significantly of late even though human activities have pumped some 400 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere over the past 15 years. As a result of these emissions, “we should have seen temperatures rise by around [0.45 degrees Fahrenheit],” German climate scientist Hans von Storch said in an interview with Spiegel Online.
          “That hasn’t happened. In fact, the increase over the past 15 years was just [0.11 degrees] — a value very close to zero.”
          Storch is a professor at the Meteorological
          Institute of the University of Hamburg and director of the Institute for Coastal Research at the Helmholtz Research Centre in Germany.
          He said: “So far, no one has been able to provide a compelling answer to why climate change seems to be taking a break.
          “If things continue as they have been, in five years, at the latest, we will need to acknowledge that something is fundamentally wrong with our climate models.”
          One explanation for the erroneous models could be that “greenhouse gases, especially CO2, have less of an effect than we have assumed,” he said.
          Another possibility is that scientists “have underestimated how much the climate fluctuates owing to natural causes,” he added.
          So given the fact that CO2 is heavier than the gasses of Nitrogen and O2 that make up most of our atmosphere then it can only be carried aloft being diluted as it goes to the altitudes needed by wind currents and then to be in significant amounts to actually raise Earth’s Temperature to the degree being claimed is not yet proven… Let alone the real role and magnitude CO2 really acts as a ‘Green House Gas” has NOT been fully understood.. Given that who ever controls Humans in regard to the Environment controls EVERY ASPECT OF HUMAN LIFE, it is no wonder that SOME would take advantage to Exploit a Theory and unproven Models to gain that kind of control, THAT IS WHAT WE NEED TO GUARD AGAINST…

  • Art

    I guess our Representative missed this prominent part of the 9th Circuit opinion: “An adjudication of all of the rights to the use of the surface waters of the Klamath River Basin (“Basin”), within the State of Oregon, is now pending in state court. See United States v. Oregon, 44 F.3d 758 (9th Cir.1994). That is a comprehensive water rights adjudication contemplated by the McCarran Amendment, 43 U.S.C. § 666, and questions of relative amounts and priorities, at least within the State of Oregon, will be decided there. Our decision in this case and that of that district court relate only to questions involving the Bureau’s operation and management of the Project, and not to the relative rights of others not before the court to the use of the waters of the Basin.”

    And then there is this, in the same opinion: “Similar to its duties under the ESA, the United States, as a trustee for the Tribes, has a responsibility to protect their rights and resources. See, e.g., United States v. Adair, 723 F.2d 1394, 1408-11, 1415 (9th Cir.1983) (holding that the Klamath Basin Tribes hold implied water rights to support hunting and fishing rights guaranteed by treaties between Tribes in Oregon and California and United States). . . . We have held that water rights for the Klamath Basin Tribes “carry a priority date of time immemorial.” Adair, 723 F.2d at 1414. Because Reclamation maintains control of the Dam, it has a responsibility to divert the water and resources needed to fulfill the Tribes’ rights, rights that take precedence over any alleged rights of the Irrigators.”

    I guess the lesson here is, you can’t trust biased people to read court decisions honestly. They see what they want to see, just like Tom Mallams, who misled some of the Upper Basin irrigators into the delusion that their being white would mean they got precedence over the Tribes’ “time immemorial” rights. The subtext is that Klamath County is governed by nincompoops.

    • Tom

      Good comments. What everyone seems not to know, or care about, is the regulation of water rights and water users during times of shortage is the law and has been regulated State wide by the Department since the law went into effect. In 1909. Sure caught a lot of people who know a lot a long time to catch on.

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