Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Thoughts and Prayers for Thousands of Klamath Falls, Oregon, Farmers/Ranchers, Facing Water Shut Off for "First Year in History" as "Millions of Migrating Birds" Suffer and "70% of [ . . . Downriver Salmon Smolts Are] Already Dead in the Traps Used to Collect Them"

My all-time best fishing buddy was my second cousin Gary Starbuck who lived in Kamath Falls, Oregon, so I made visits there the past five years.  I had dinner with ranching families, and found them hardworking, honest, with an uncommon joy in life.  So, my thoughts and prayers go to the thousands in Klamath Falls, Oregon, facing, for the first year, complete water shut off, and all that means for their farms, ranches, children, bank loans, crops, livestock, futures, and culture. I can't in good conscience criticize these people for wanting water to survive. I won't criticize upriver or downriver Native peoples for wanting to survive either, or "half-dozen wildlife refuges that harbor millions of migrating birds each year," or estimated "70 percent of the fish [ . . .] already dead in the traps used to collect them and 97 percent [ . . . ] infected by the bacteria known as C. shasta" according to Yurok fish biologists cited by The Associated Press on May 14, 2021.

"[Oregon] state climatologist [Larry] O’Neill said mounting evidence suggests [ . . . this is] the driest 20-year period in the past millennium" according to Bradley W. Parks's May 13, 2021 article at opb.org. A similar drought situation happened in 2001 according to Eric Bailey's Los Angeles Times article "Water War Pits Farms Against Fish." The article noted "[Rob Crawford] and the 1,500 other farmers and ranchers in the Klamath Basin, a productive agrarian region straddling the Oregon border, have been denied water [in 2001]. They are casualties of a drought and efforts to save endangered fish. In the long history of Western water wars, it is the first time a community has been forced to stop farming, experts said. [ . . . . ] Many face bankruptcy or outright ruin." The article continues "Crawford drives by a reminder each day. Just up the road from his modest home, the farmer points to a big clapboard house. It’s a lovely spread, but the farmer who lived there, he says, committed suicide last year. Couldn’t pay his loans."

Bailey also wrote "On the road into Tulelake, population 1,000 and shrinking, signs have been erected by angry farmers. '73 Years With Water . . . Until Now!'  [ . . . . ] At Tulelake Elementary, Principal Patty Reeder [ . . . . ] said, 'kids went home crying': ‘I’m going to move. I’m going to move.’ [ . . . . ] Venancio Hernandez [ . . . . ] worked up from farm hand to manager to his own crops on leased land. [ . . . . ] He said 'I like to stay here for the kids.' [ . . . ] He turns his back, raises his head to the dusty heavens. The tears come forth. [par break] 'For someone to just come and say you can’t have water,' he sobs, 'it just feels like they cut you in half.'”

In a related climate liability matter, on April 8 I participated in Coastal Shores Specialist Meg Reed's excellent presentation "Preparing for Sea Level Rise in Oregon" in the Lower Nehalem Watershed's Speaker Series. Reed, according to tillamookcountypioneer.net, is based in Newport, Oregon, "for the Oregon Coastal Management Program, administered through the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development." The tillamookcountypioneer.net announcement quoted Margaret Treadwell, the Program Coordinator for Friends of Cape Falcon Marine Reserve, "A certain amount of sea level rise is unavoidable, even if we were to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” she said. "Adapting to sea level rise can feel like an overwhelming problem, so I think it will be very interesting and heartening to hear about the ways that it’s being planned for in Oregon and around the world.”

After that presentation, I emailed Reed, and Clatsop County Commissioner Pamela Wev, who also participated, "[ . . . . ] I asked the question about legally making fossil fuel companies pay for sea walls, raising roads, etc. I mentioned fossil fuel companies have known this would happen since 1959. [ . . . . ] I hope Astoria and other Oregon/Washington coastal cities will join together to make fossil fuel companies pay." The same concern obviously applies to the aforementioned "driest 20-year period" in a thousand years causing human and nonhuman disaster in the Klamath Falls, Oregon, area. 

In my 2015 book Industrial Oz, I wrote about the 2001/2002 drought in the Klamath Falls area:

My friend says 5 ranchers near Klamath Falls
shot themselves when water was cut. [ . . . . ]

"I knew them.  They were all good men.” 

Looking at Mr. Steelhead in our raft,
I think of 30,000 salmon, mostly chinook, that died in 2002 

from suffocation and disease brought by drought.  [ . . . . ]

Floating on summer silence, casting below alders,
I say “We have to do better for ranchers and salmon.” 

and think, but don’t say, it will take uncommon vision,
sacrifice, and planning this world has never seen. 

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