USFWS photo

In extreme drought, the feds are diverting Oregon farmers’ water for endangered fish

By Seth Hancock for The Liberty Loft

Klamath Falls, OR — Farmers Grant Knoll and Dan Nielsen are ready to turn the water back on at an Oregon canal after the federal government shut it off, in the midst of extreme drought, in order to “protect” two species of fish listed in the Endangered Species Act.

The farmers purchased land last month next to the headgate of a canal that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) shut-off preventing farmers from their irrigation water supply from Upper Klamath Lake, water that farmers in southern Oregon and northern California rely on. Knoll and Nielsen have held regular protests with farmers being harmed by the decision.

“It’s ours, and the federal government actually just stole it. No due process of law, no compensation…. If they don’t budge, I think we’re just going to end up taking it. It’s the only way the government gets it,” Nielsen said in an interview this week with RT.

The USBR released a statement early last month stating its decision to shut-off the water supply was in coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries.

“This year’s drought conditions are bringing unprecedented hardship to the communities of the Klamath Basin,” Camille Touton, USBR deputy commissioner, stated. “We have closely monitored the water conditions in the area and the unfortunate deterioration of the forecast hydrology. This has resulted in the historic consequence of not being able to operate a majority of the Klamath Project this year. Reclamation is dedicated to working with our water users, tribes, and partners to get through this difficult year and developing long-term solutions for the basin.”

The species of suckerfish that the ISBR says it is protecting with the move hold spiritual significance to the Native American tribes in Klamath Falls.

“We do want people to hear our voice and realize that our fish are important, and that we’re important,” Don Gentry, chairman of the Klamath Tribes, told the Sacramento Bee last month. “And so we want to make that statement. And, you know, we certainly don’t relish or revel in the negative impact on everybody else in the basin. But I will say there’s a certain amount of bitterness and anger, you know, because of our tragic history, and people continue to marginalize us and our fish and treat us like we’re inferior people.”

However, there are questions on whether shutting off the water has any impact on the fish. Ben DuVal, president of the Klamath Water Users Association, called the decision a “failed experiment that has produced no benefit for the [fish]” when he spoke to RT.

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