As drought slams California and Oregon, Klamath farmers grow fish to quell a water war

Anita Chabria and Hailey Branson-Potts, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Weather News

Replenishing their numbers is “the only ray of hope,” he said.

Under the Trump administration, farm advocates made headway in revising federal policies, but they have little confidence that President Biden — who has pledged stricter enforcement of environmental regulation — will come to their aid. Supporters of Biden say the seriousness of drought presents few pathways for easy fixes.

“The reality is, throughout the West we have a climate crisis, and there is not enough water to go around, and business as usual will not work,” Sally Jewell, U.S. secretary of the Interior under Barack Obama from 2013 to 2017, told The Times.

The Klamath Tribes, who also have fish hatcheries of their own, say the c’waam and koptu are indicator species that show the entire Klamath Basin is in ecological jeopardy. Simply adding stock to Upper Klamath Lake, they say, doesn’t fix larger problems like pollution runoff from cattle grazing above the lake, or less water coming in from snowmelt that no longer flows reliably from the nearby mountains.

But Jewell understands that it is difficult for farmers to hear that the old ways of doing business may not work in the future, especially when the government hasn’t made an alternative clear.

“It’s hard to let go of the ‘from’ if you don’t know what the ‘to’ is,” she said.


She said she was concerned about involvement in the Klamath water crisis by the Bundy family, who, she said, “are people that are exploiting grievance” and “ramping up extremism.”

Bundy, who has said he supports the Klamath Basin farmers, has been involved in two armed standoffs over land rights issues with the federal government — both under Jewell’s tenure — one of which ended with a fellow militant being killed by authorities near the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.

Inside the tent, Bundy followers regularly preach of government overreach and corruption, depicting regulators and environmentalists as enemies who have stolen water that rightfully belongs to farmers.

Though the senior water rights in the lake are held by the Klamath Tribes, who consider the c’waam sacred, farmers have junior rights that they believe are being violated — though courts have not agreed.


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