Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.

By Todd Kellstrom and Dan Keppen
Todd Kellstrom is the mayor of Klamath Falls. Dan Keppen of Klamath Falls is executive director of the Family Farm Alliance.
 July 19, 2007 Register Guard

Anti-farmer activists such as Steve Pedery (guest viewpoint, July 5) have reached a new low. Pedery, conservation director of Oregon Wild, and others are continuing an agenda-driven attempt to stir emotions with outdated information and myths regarding Klamath River water and environmental matters.

The latest media barrage has been spectacular. First The Washington Post runs a front-page story alleging that, for purely political purposes, Vice President Dick Cheney somehow directly interfered with Klamath River scientific studies, leading to the 2002 salmon die-off on the lower Klamath River.

Later that day, three dozen House Democrats send a letter to House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., demanding an investigation of the Post's charges. The very next day, Rahall obliges, setting an oversight hearing date of July 31.

After Rahall's decision, we have seen the regurgitated editorials that predictably follow such political stunts. And with each new report, the fiction expands.

For example, the Bureau of Reclamation shut off water to Klamath Project irrigators in 2001. Acting on questionable science served up by federal fisheries agencies, the bureau actually made that fateful decision under Cheney's watch - the only time irrigation has been curtailed in a century.

Importantly, the 2002 fish die-off has not been conclusively linked to operations of the Klamath Irrigation Project, located more than 200 miles away. U.S. District Judge Saundra Armstrong in 2003 found that a "triable issue of fact" existed regarding the cause of the die-off. Accordingly, the judge ultimately dismissed the court case as moot in 2005. A 2003 report released by a National Research Council committee also failed to find a link between the die-off and irrigation project operations.

The "new" news that The Washington Post reported on was an apparent request by Cheney for an independent review of the science used by federal fisheries agencies in 2001. Cheney's involvement has now been morphed by editorial writers into his "blatantly manipulative role" in setting federal water policy for the Klamath Basin.

Admittedly, our local irrigation community and many others felt that the Bush administration had, in 2001, been handed some very soft science that led to its devastating decision to cut off the irrigation water to 1,400 family farms and ranches. Our community pushed for an independent review of that science, months before the cut-off and after. It was announced at a 2001 congressional field hearing in Klamath Falls that such a review would occur. There was no opposition to that review, and the suggestion by the Post and others that the vice president manipulated the conclusions of the NRC committee is absurd.

The premier science body in the country provided an objective review on a high-profile, politically charged issue. The "manipulation" implied in editorials suggests the vice president somehow coerced the independent academics on the NRC committee to do his bidding. Do people actually believe that the committee members - specifically selected for their objectivity and their varied talents - would meekly obey while the vice president tells them how to do their jobs?

We believe that if this had happened, someone such as Pedery would have run to the Post long ago with the report.

The charges against the vice president are just part of a larger, prolonged campaign waged by outside anti-farming activists intent on completing an agenda: eliminating Klamath Basin family farmers. The very folks who helped build our community are targeted for removal, all in order to complete a far-fetched "solution" that the environistas believe will somehow save the rest of the watershed.

What Pedery and other activists ignore is that irrigators, tribes, conservation groups and public servants, for nearly three years, have been working together to try to solve Klamath's problems, a point well made by the Karuk Tribe in its July 10 Register-Guard guest viewpoint. These constructive parties have benefited from more than $500 million spent by the federal government on water conservation, environmental banking, restoration work and research conducted in our watershed since 2002.

The real players in a balanced approach to the Klamath River water, farming and fish issue have been, and will continue to be, involved in discussions and negotiations that can bring an equitable solution. Overtly sensational activists and media hinder their efforts and future success.

For the region's entire benefit, let us hope these constructive efforts prevail.

Todd Kellstrom is the mayor of Klamath Falls. Dan Keppen of Klamath Falls is executive director of the Family Farm Alliance.

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