|The Klamath: The Basin, The
Bucket and Backbone
March 12, 2006
By Barb Hall and Julie Kay Smithson
The other definition of watershed is
of interest to everyone who's aware of the Klamath.
Watershed - A crucial dividing
point, line or factor: a turning point.
2001 was a watershed year for the
Klamath and for America. There are many reasons for this, but there
is one besides 9-11 that will forever be branded in the hearts and minds
of Klamath Basin residents and the people nationwide that became
involved in the Klamath Basin in the summer of 2001.
In 2001, the Klamath's farming
community lost its guarantee of water -- a guarantee that had stood the
Klamath and America's consumers in good stead for nearly a century.
For all the talk of
"restoration," the Klamath has never been static.
The Klamath -- its land and water,
its people, plants and animals -- has always been changing and adapting
to shifting weather patterns. In dry years -- before the Klamath Project
-- everyone suffered. Change brought the Klamath Project to the Klamath
Basin and made it sparkle like it did at one time only in the wet years,
but never even then was it as bountiful as the Klamath Project's arrival
Water evaporated or ran downstream.
Water, in the years before irrigated farming in the Klamath Basin, was
available once before it either "went up" (evaporation) or
"went down" (downstream).
The birth of the Klamath Project was
a watershed moment: for the people, plants, animals, birds and fish of
the Klamath Basin.
At last came the chance for the use
and reuse of water, over and over, with little evaporation but vastly
increased production -- and with just 2 - 4 percent of the water
going into agriculture.
The Basin bloomed and blossomed. What was once a place where people lived at the mercy of the weather became a place of verdant beauty and measurable success. The bounty of the land fed everyone, from the people of the Klamath to its plants and animals, both cultivated and wild. No longer was the Klamath at the mercy of the weather with its ever-changing "feast or famine."
The Bucket was born in 2001, crafted
by those with an intimate knowledge of the importance of water: to
people, plants, animals, birds, fish, and land. The Bucket was huge, but
it symbolized a huge issue: Water in the Klamath and Water for the
Future of the Klamath. The Bucket was simple, both in design and
adornment. Its very presence brought grown men to tears and teenagers to
cheers. People looked upon it in amazement, just as they did the arrival
in their neighborhood of loads of hay from distant states, donated food
(for people and animals) and other necessities, and the gathering of
good people in Klamath Falls, Oregon, in August 2001.
The Bucket was built to last. The
Bucket came to stay, for it signified all that was -- and is -- good in
the Klamath. Water is the lifeblood of life itself in the Klamath: for
everyone. No one and nothing can live without it.
When guaranteed water was shut off to the irrigators who had paid for it in advance, a play began in the Klamath.
Act One was the shutting off of the
Act Two was the reaction to the
Act Three was the convergence on
Klamath Falls of people from all over America -- from as far away as
Maryland, Ohio and Texas. A central Nevada rancher, an Idaho stateswoman
and others pivotal to America's continued Constitutional Republic -- all
came to Klamath Falls to make a stand.
Act Four was the peaceful encampment at the "A" Canal Headgates, a place that became hallowed ground and "Ground Zero" before 9-11. Never was a meal prepared and served that prayer was not said first. II Chronicles, Chapter 7, Verse 14, hung on a banner above the entrance to the big green-and-white Headgates Tent. "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."
The Klamath was where America's
Backbone coalesced, just like Jarbidge and The Shovels in northeast
Nevada, the Darby of Ohio and The Log Haul in Montana.
Water for agriculture cannot, should
not and must not be "mitigated."
The Basin, The Bucket and Backbone
are not negotiable. All are here to stay. Those seeking to sell
"restoration" and "mitigation" are marketing snake
oil in the twenty-first century. It's time to see that and recognize it
for the Trojan Horse it is.
The Wildlands Project -- goes. For
all its slick talk, "restoration" and "protection"
by outsiders is a sham. Everyone is wounded by such an agenda, except
those pushing it, but they are not farmers and irrigators that raise
food that feeds people. No one doubts that parts of the Klamath are wild
-- the wild flocks that migrate and winter in the Klamath are wild, but
they go where the food is: food that is there because of the Klamath
farmers and irrigators, not in spite of them. Cut off the water to the
Klamath Project and you kill much more than the 1,400 farmers and their
way of life.
The Basin, The Bucket and Backbone stay.
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