Oregon farmers vent anger over loss of irrigation water

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Tucson, Arizona Sunday, 8 April 2001

Oregon farmers vent anger over loss of irrigation water THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. - Farmers by the hundreds turned out yesterday to vent their fury over a decision that leaves many of them high and dry this summer so irrigation water can be used to save threatened or endangered fish.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced Friday that 90 percent of the farmers in a basin along the Oregon-California border drawing water from the Klamath Project would be left dry to maintain water for endangered sucker fish and sustain water flows for threatened coho salmon.

Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., told them it was OK to be mad.

"I am here to be your whipping post," Smith told a crowd of about 700 farmers and others who spilled out of a conference room into a hallway. "I want you to vent your frustration."

And they did.

Marty Macy of Newell told Smith he was disgusted by a March 26 presentation by officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service sent to explain two biological opinions that underpin the decision to stop irrigation.

"I was appalled at the conduct and incompetency," Macy said. "I was sick to my stomach that our federal tax dollars pay the salaries of such men.

"We want a moratorium on a Fish and Wildlife Service that is still trying to take our private lands."

Another told Smith he was upset that the decision had received the approval of Vice President Dick Cheney. "I thought Cheney was on our side," the man said.

But Smith said the decision, bitter as it was, was a victory of sorts.

A week ago the outlook was for no water for anyone in the basin, he said. "Dick Cheney stopped that order from coming down. He ordered the biologists back to Washington" to see if they could soften the conclusion that all available water must go to protect endangered suckers in Upper Klamath Lake and threatened coho salmon in the lower Klamath River.

Marnie Morrow, a member of the Klamath Tribes, told Smith she was frustrated with fellow Indians who want to save the suckers for their cultural importance. "I have asked . . . how many eat these sucker fish?" No one, she said.

Sources told the Klamath Falls Herald and News that more than 80 biologists from federal agencies and tribes met last week in Washington to review the biological opinions.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), April 08, 2001

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