Soon after Klamath Basin growers received the devastating news that water would be turned off for the rest of the 2001 season, CAFA contacted a leading figure in the ag community. He asked CAFA to urge its members to contact their congressional representatives to support the effort to restore irrigation water in the Klamath Basin.

He cautioned that what happens in his area will eventually set the stage for policies that would be enacted elsewhere. We also talked to a CAFA grower member who called the Klamath Basin a “test area” and warned there would be a trickle down effect if environmentalists and other parties prevailed.

The weekly electronic newsletter sent to CAFA by the Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) is informative and encouraging in its coverage of the situation and determination to keep water flowing. They've taken a proactive approach that should serve as a model for agriculture.

Recently, for example, the KWUA presented its side of the story at three southern California conferences hosted by the American Water Resources Association, the National Water Resources Association, and the Association of California Water Agencies.

Pointed out report errors

At the American Water Resources Association's annual conference, KWUA Executive Director Dan Keppen made a presentation entitled, “The 2002 Klamath River Fish Die-Off: Facts, Falsehoods, and Politics.” The presentation, prepared by a consulting fisheries biologist, poked holes in the California Department of Fish and Game's report that Klamath Project operations were the main cause of last fall's fish kill in the lower Klamath River. The assertion was made even through fish died 200 miles downstream of the Klamath Project.

The plight of Klamath Basin growers has also received support from congressional representatives, another positive development. The congressmen who represent the Klamath Basin have the ammunition they need with the National Research Council's (NRC) recently released report, Endangered and Threatened Fishes in the Klamath Basin. The NRC is the working arm of the National Academy of Sciences, which advises the government on scientific and technical matters. The bottom line is that the cutoff of irrigation water in 2001 wasn't justified. Furthermore, there wasn't sufficient evidence to assign responsibility for the 2002 fish kills.

In October, Congressmen Wally Herger and John Doolittle, California Republicans, and Congressman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) wrote a letter to Richard Pombo (R-Calif.), Chairman of the House Resources Committee. The Upper Klamath Basin congressional representatives called for “a public airing” of the NRC report.

The situation is far from being settled, of course. But, the people in the Basin who are fighting the battle deserve credit for protecting their interests as well the interests of all California growers.