Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
I am sorry Diane and I missed your call.
I was not able to attend the OWRD meeting in Sprague River because I spoke at a Young Americans for Liberty event in San Jose, CA which we had scheduled quite a while ago and then we went further south on family business.
We have seen this before and what worries me is that no matter how many show up with their concerns, complaints, and their lives and livelihoods on the line nothing seems to change the administrative decisions that are driving the OWRD agenda and actions.
We have heard it all before “the tribes are the first in line and when they make a call the OWRD is bound to the water rights laws”. We also know, according to water-law throughout history, that the contingent nature of water poses practical challenges. However, water rights have always been linked to land tenure rights and in particular to land ownership rights. This long-standing historical perspective is changing under our feet. “Time-immemorial” water rights wouldn’t be too frightening if water volume limits were properly determined or adjudicated, but they aren’t.
So, are we a society of laws, rules and governing institutions or not?
As you describe, the vital importance of water to our county’s farming and ranching activity is such that when the rules get changed “on-the-fly” (i.e., 5,280 feet from the river one day versus 6,000 feet the next) it becomes nearly impossible to live, plan and survive here on the Eastern-side.
I have met, written, and had innumerable discussions with OWRD and, unfortunately, their claim is they are “simply following the law.” I disagree. They are making up the rules as they go. There is nothing legitimate about the way they move the goalposts after every play. Your points are well-made and your questions highlight the current disingenuous agenda being foisted on agriculture in the basin, by OWRD.
Going forward we need to restrict the use of what I call “rampant model abuse.” Bad science is being used across all federal and state agencies. They fund the research and they construct a model that reflects specific parameters under research, but that leaves some million-other variables out of the equation. This essentially means that the model works well on paper but fails miserably in the real world.
Back in 2000, Congress passed the Information Quality Act (IQA) requiring federal agencies to ensure the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of the scientific, technical, and statistical information that federal agencies adopt and disseminate to the public. Although the law is nominally a procedural statute, regulated entities and other stakeholders can successfully seek judicial enforcement of the IQA when agencies rely upon flawed science for federal rules, and those rules impose paperwork, compliance, and other burdens.
Unfortunately, Oregon has no such statute or regulatory requirement. This means, we’ll have to create one. This is not an immediate solution; however, I will be submitting the same legislative bill that Sen. Doug Whitsett introduced in 2016. It was defeated but it would force OWRD to use real-world data instead of arbitrary modeling techniques to determine the validity of specific claims against wells that are suspected of impacting surface flows.
Last year, I attended portions of the Sees/Stonier litigation which was challenging this very issue. Their efforts and their case were excellently presented. However, the judiciary squashed their effort.
So, I see your frustration and I’ve heard from everyone in the community. I get calls daily from folks who, like you don’t know how they will survive.
The bureaucratic state has been growing for some time and it will take some time to undo what has been done. In the upcoming elections, we need to change executive, legislative and judicial members wherever possible to turn this ship around.
As your friend and neighbor, I sense your ultimate frustration and I will stay in the fight to secure your land, property and water rights.
Senator Dennis Linthicum
I don’t think we have met before. I wish our first conversation were surrounding much better circumstances.
Note: I have added two people to this thread:
It is my opinion that the State is incorrect by using hydrology modeling that has not been proven accurate in real-world studies. State Representative McLane told me he “… sponsored and advocated for a bill in a previous session that would have negated the presumption that all wells within a mile of a river are hydraulically connected.” I think I am safe to say that all your elected officials on this response disagree with OWRD’s action.
That said, Oregonians, over the past 30 years, have allowed the administrative state (executive branch) to grab more and more power in such matters. What’s worse is that those who are here to defend you are in the minority in the State House, State Senate and have not held the Governor’s office for over 30 years. What is happening in my opinion is not due to an accident or single a bad actor but is the design of leftism — where the State grows larger and larger and your freedoms are usurped. In this instance they are telling you to lose your livelihood and assets (accumulated often over generations) and to do something else they approve. In my view the world is upside down: fish over farmers. We need a farmer-friendly policy in this State, and in our nation.
On a positive note I believe Congressman Walden will be delivering some good news this afternoon in the form of a press conference in Klamath Falls. Hopefully the Federal relief he talks about will be able to provide help to your particular situation.
In closing, it is wrong for judges and administrative officials to tell you whether you cannot irrigate — especially when their injunctions are based not on real world evidence but opinions and unproven computer models. I along with State Representative McLane, Congressman Walden, State Senator Linthicum, Commissioner Boyd and others will continue to fight for your rights. We have a lot of unwinding to do, and must win power in Salem and DC in order to untangle the mess we’ve allowed grow over decades.
God speed to you and your family. You are in my prayers.
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