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Two Leaders of Water Protests in Oregon Photo: Holly Dillemuth, Jefferson Public Radio
By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer
This year’s historic drought has intensified a century-old dispute over water in the Klamath Lake region on the Oregon-California border. One hundred years ago, the federal government drained lakes and re-routed rivers to make farming easier, but this year’s drought has sent the region into crisis. Klamath Lake, the largest in Oregon, is so low that fish may not survive — salmon have been dying en masse. As a result, the federal government stopped exporting water to farms for the first time since 1907, to the dismay of the region’s farmers. Indeed, two have threatened to breach the headgates of the federal irrigation project’s main canal and try to release water.
As William Jaeger, an economics professor at Oregon State University, put it to the New York Times: “These are not things that are going to get better if climate change continues to give us more uncertainty and less reliable supplies of water.” Conservationists, Native American tribes, farmers, and government officials are attempting to parse through their different water needs. This dispute is even more complicated given the colonial history of the region, in which colonists murdered over a dozen Native Americans on Klamath Lake. The Klamath Tribes signed a treaty relinquishing 20 million acres of their lands in order to continue to hunt and fish. This year, juvenile salmon have been dying of parasitic infections, and this die-off could end up being the worst on record.
But the desire to keep Klamath’s fish alive conflicts with farmers’ needs in the region. During a 2001 drought, the federal Bureau of Reclamation planned to fully cut off water for farmers for the summer. Farmers and ranchers fought back, opening up the canal gates by force with crowbars and saws.
Experts worry that violence may break out again. “There are folks on both sides that would really like to throw down and take things in an ugly direction,” Clayton Dumont, a member of the Klamath Tribal Council, told the New York Times. “I hope it doesn’t happen, but it’s a possibility.”
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by Jessica Grannis We’re in the dog days of summer now, and lots of folks are headed to the beach to make up for lost time since the pandemic began. My favorite part of traveling to the coast from DC is watching my surroundings slowly turn from urban areas to the forests of the coastal […]
By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer The West is currently in the middle of a severe drought, and Lake Powell, the region’s second-largest reservoir, is at its lowest level in decades. The lake, located on the Colorado River, is effectively a human-made storage basin that keeps the regional water supply in balance under the 100-year-old […]
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