Feds Mull Calling in Marshals in Oregon Water Fight

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Feds Mull Calling in Marshals in Oregon Water Fight

Thursday, July 05, 2001


Federal officials were considering whether to call in U.S. marshals on Thursday to enforce the Endangered Species Act after angry farmers and residents sent water reserved for threatened and endangered fish into an irrigation canal.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation also was meeting with officials of the Klamath Irrigation District in an effort to restore calm.

"It is a discussion of mutual concerns," said bureau spokesman Jeff McCracken. "We have a responsibility to follow the law."

The Bureau of Reclamation controls the Klamath Project irrigation system, serving 240,000 acres of farms and ranches in the Klamath Basin along the Oregon-California border.

On Wednesday, a crowd of 100 to 150 people armed with a diamond-bladed chain saw and a cutting torch opened a gate that had been welded shut and reopened a headgate to send water from Upper Klamath Lake back into the "A" Canal of the Klamath Project.

It was the second time in a week that the headgate had been opened in defiance of the bureau's decision last April that severe drought made it impossible to provide water to 90 percent of the land in the Klamath Project without jeopardizing the survival of endangered sucker fish in Upper Klamath Lake and threatened coho salmon in the Klamath River.

Water flowed into the canal for over four hours, until a Bureau of Reclamation official closed it down, the Herald and News newspaper reported.

Klamath Falls police and county sheriff's deputies observed but did not interfere because no state or local laws were being broken, the newspaper said.

The Bureau of Reclamation owns the irrigation facilities, but contracts with the Klamath Irrigation District to maintain and operate them.

After the headgate was opened Friday night, neither side wanted to close the gate, saying it was the other's responsibility. The bureau finally closed it.

"We certainly understand the frustration of the community facing this situation," said McCracken. "We would hope that cooler heads prevail."

Klamath County Sheriff Tim Evinger said he had notified the Klamath Irrigation District about the opened gates.

Irrigiation officials said the district would manage Wednesday's flow, estimated at 200 cubic feet per second.

"It just appears to me that they are trying to save their lives," Evinger said of those who opened the gate.

Since the water was shut off last April, Klamath Basin farms with no other source of water have been forced to sell off cattle, let pastures and hay fields go brown, and give up annual plantings of potatoes, grain and other crops.

Many other lands in the Klamath Basin served by wells or other irrigation districts are green.

Ron Johnson, a Klamath Falls farm equipment dealer, said the canal was reopened because people are frustrated and want to see something done.

"There is a lot of anger," he said. "It is really unfair to a lot of people who make their livelihood from farming, having everything taken away from them like it is."

-- PHO (owennos@bigfoot.com), July 06, 2001


This is unbelievable to me. How can any civilized government put the benefits of fish ahead of its own people?

-- Uncle Fred (dogboy45@bigfoot.com), July 06, 2001.


San Juan river in NM -- low flow to save fish Posted by vlad on July 6, 2001, 8:40 am

here is a quote from my pal in NW NM "We are having a similar thing going on in the San Juan river. They are planning a low flow for a couple of weeks to save the spiny- backed sucker or some such; and the low flow will put the river below Bloomfield (New Mexico) ditch headgate when they get water for their water system. I suppose they will haul water for them in Army tanker trucks. Folks in Bloomfield are very unhappy but the feds are charging ahead with the plan. I'll let you now who wins."


just for "a couple of weeks" huh????

---------------------------------------------------------------------- ---------- Responses:

Re: San Juan river in NM -- low flow to save fish zog July 6, 2001, 1:24 pm Zog: "Tough Kitty?" I thought it was tough Titty.......but then, that's my problem.......NT booby July 6, 2001, 3:20 pm

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-- vlad strelok (strelok60@yahoo.com), July 06, 2001.

So, the same the-hell-with=humans government policy, where fish are involved, is going on in Bloomfield, New Mexico. I spent 10 years of my life living in Farmington, about 18 miles from Bloomfield, and imagine those red-necks, which over-populate the area, are up in arms.

-- JackW (jpayne@webtv.net), July 06, 2001.

Some of the blame for this has to go to intensive farming. The agra- business is encouraging farming practices that greatly increases water use. I know many small organic farmers in the Hudson Valey who easily handled the water shortages we have suffered over the years using practices that go hand-in-hand with sustainable farming. Conditioning the soil works.

-- K (infosurf@yahoo.com), July 07, 2001.

July 6, 2001 Feds keep distance over Klamath Basin water tensions

KLAMATH FALLS, ORE. (AP) - Federal law enforcement officials kept their distance Friday from the Klamath Basin, where anger over the Endangered Species Act has resulted in attempts to restore water to farmers that has been reserved for protected fish.

Meanwhile, a Klamath County commissioner said he hoped calm would prevail while the region waits for Congress to consider a $20 million aid package for farmers and the U.S. Department of Interior reviews the biology behind the decision to cut off irrigation water to 90 percent of the Klamath Project to protect threatened and endangered fish.

"These are good folks here," said Commissioner Al Switzer. "I know they are hurting. In my estimation this is a terrible thing the country has done to them. But we still have to remember we are Americans."

Local sheriff's deputies stood by on July 4 when about 100 flag- waving people broke through a chain link fence and cranked open one of the main head gates of the Klamath Project, where water has been cut off to 90 percent of the 240,000 acres of ranches and farms served by the federal irrigation project.

The head gate had been opened twice before by unknown persons in the past week.

Afterwards, the Bureau of Reclamation said it was considering whether to call in federal marshals to protect the Klamath Project and the FBI to investigate.

The U.S. Marshals Service was not involved, said Chief Deputy Dora Alvarado in the Portland office.

The FBI issued a statement saying it had consulted with the U.S. Attorney's Office over how to proceed, but stopped short of saying it was conducting an investigation into the break-ins onto the Klamath Project.

"We've been involved since the very beginning," said Beth Anne Steele, spokeswoman for the FBI office in Portland. "We've had folks in and out for several months. We're certainly working with all the local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies that are down there."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Sutherland said he could not comment on the situation.

Faced with a severe drought, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation decided last April it could not allocate water to farmers without violating the Endangered Species Act by jeopardizing the survival of endangered sucker fish in Upper Klamath Lake and threatened coho salmon in the Klamath River.

The Herald and News newspaper quoted an unidentified Bureau of Reclamation official as saying that the break-ins were unprecedented in the history of the agency.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), July 07, 2001.

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