MERRILL, Ore. – Local farmers in the Klamath Basin organized a convoy to protest for the shutdown of the Klamath Irrigation Project.
“The biggest single problem in the basin is that the water system is over-appropriated, it’s a broken system,” said Glen Spain, Northwest Regional Director of Pacific Coast of Fisherman Associations.
Over-appropriation impacts the Yurok Tribe, the west coast fishing industry and the farming community. Today’s convoy was organized by local farmers who say they need more water. They aren’t alone in that need. The Klamath Irrigation Program was initially put into place about 20 years ago with the goal of boosting fish populations, specifically sucker fish in the Upper Klamath Lake. Famers that spoke to NewsWatch 12 say there hasn’t been enough progress within fish populations to justify hurting farmers.
“Why are we keeping the lake full of water to kill fish? 20 years, they haven’t gotten one more sucker fish in that lake, so what’s going on?” said Bob Gasser, one of the organizers of the convoy.
Farmers are hoping today’s convoy will catch national attention and spark change.
“A success from today would be the eyes of the nation upon us and that’s from the West Coast to the East Coast; from Sacramento and Salem to Washington D.C. and if we can get those kind of eyes on us and they can understand how the policy decisions are killing ag economies across the west, that’s the best we can hope for,” said Scott Seus, a farmer that participated in the convoy.
The convoy came just a week after a federal judge in San Francisco ruled against an emergency motion filed by the Yurok Tribe, asking for more water to be released into the Klamath Project. When speaking to NewsWatch 12, the Vice Chair for the Yurok Tribe emphasized that the Klamath River is literally the lifeline of the Yurok People.
“The median income on the reservation is $11,000 and so when you break it down to the numbers, cost per protein, salmon is really a vital part of our tribe, just to survive,” said Frankie Meyers, the Vice Chair for the Yurok Tribe.
“We are in favor of the farmers working through this, we are in favor of a solution that keeps all of our communities whole, we’re all working together, we’re all tied together by this umbilical cord called the Klamath River,” said Spain.
Farmers tell NewsWatch 12, they do want to see the fish population flourish in their area but they continue to sacrifice their farms in order to do it.