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Klamath Chamber Official to C. Basin Growers:
'It Could Happen to You'

by Larry Ashby
Capital Press - January 18, 2002

'Junk Science' blamed for cutoff of Klamath Basin irrigation water

PASCO, Wash. -- The 2001 federal cutoff of irrigation water to Klamath Basin farmers is "part of the War on the West," said Staphanie Bailey, executive director of the Klamath Falls Chamber of Commerce.

"It's a plan by environmental groups to move people from the land," Bailey told some 200 farmers gathered at Pasco's TRAC building Jan. 9

She spoke at the Mid Columbia Farm Forum and Ag Show sponsored by the Greater Pasco Area Chamber of Commerce.

Hundreds of Northwest farmers, ranchers, agricultural leaders and implement dealers showed for the event.

Bailey held out a warning to Columbian Basin farmers. Someday, she said, they might be forced into federal court to fight cash-laden environmental groups similar to the Portland based Oregon Natural Resources Council.

Given their wealth, she said, such groups tend to sue and sue again to get their way, until farmers can no longer afford to pay attorneys to fight them.

Last year, environmentalists convinced a federal judge to uphold the federal water cutoff affecting 1,400 Klamath farmers.

Backed by armed federal marshals, bureaucrats closed valves at the mouth of Klamath Lake.

Bailey and others say the decision was based on "junk science" presented to the judge. The same could happen in Washington, she said.

"You have similar political problems with the Seattle urban area controlling much of Washington politics," she said. Bailey told the somber group the government's decision to stifle water flow to 180,000 acres in the Klamath Basin has had a "devastating impact on the area's economy.

"Grown men were crying to see their farms destroyed," Bailey said. Third- and fourth-generation farmers are losing their land, even though the government promised them the land and irrigation water.

"Now, the last generation there are blaming themselves for losing their farms," Bailey said. "Its not their fault."

Some farm families have been forced to go to food banks, get food stamps and obtain social services.

"These are the people who have been feeding us. It's unbelievable," Bailey said.

Of the Klamath Basin's $2 billion annual economy, farmers directly contribute some $15 million.

Ripple effects from farm losses, however, have caused between $250 million and $400 million in losses to the overall economy, Bailey said.

She spoke of empty homes all over Klamath Falls.

"The farmworkers are gone. They're not coming back until they know they'll have jobs," she said.

Bailey blasted some politicians, liberals and East Coast environmentalists as being part of the problem.

"These people think groceries come from Safeway, as if food is produced in the back room somewhere," she said.

She spoke of one teacher who's telling her students that "it's OK if we don't get vegetables from farms -- we can still get them at the stores."

The chamber director also took a swing at bureaucrats who, she says, brandish junk science to support their dictates.

"Our biologists and scientists were not allowed to enter data for hearings," Bailey said. "There are no peer reviews of government data. Flaws in that data are just now being questioned in universities."

The Endangered Species Act is itself seriously flawed, she said, yet it "is the bible," for politicians facing urban voters who have little or no understanding of food production.

A second speaker, Shannon McDaniel, South Columbia Basin Irrigation district manager, also told farmers he took a very cautious view of politicians, federal agency people and environmentalists.

"In the '90s, politicians had a chance to change the ESA, when Republicans were in control. But the changes they proposed were meager. Now changes are impossible with Democrats," he said. "Don't lull yourselves into an idea that these people have your interests in mind. They don't."

He said he's concerned about the possibility of a Klamath-like event in the Columbia Basin.

Following Bailey's presentation, one farmer stood up to agree with her stance.

Environmentalists and federal agencies "want to use the ESA for even bigger land grabs," he said.

Related Pages:
Farm Forum Speaker says Some NW Scientific Findings Invalid

Larry Ashby for the Capital Press
Klamath Chamber Official to C. Basin Growers: 'It Could Happen to You'
Capital Press - January 18, 2002

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