Farmers Fight For Water

by jeehopaik on October 6, 2017 - 8:48pm

The article “Klamath Basin Farmers Lose Long- Running Taking Suits”, by Michael Doyle, discusses the water resource management conflict in Klamath California, between Klamath Farmers and the US government. The purpose of this article is to discuss why the Bureau of Reclamation governed the denial of 336,000 acre- feet of water against Klamath farmers. The denial of water irrigation for farmers was an obligation of the government to service the three Klamath Basin tribe’s senior rights that hold the right to take fish from Klamath Project Waters, under the terms of an 1864 treaty. The Endangered Species Act also acknowledged the increased vulnerability of the coho salmon due to lower water levels, and had enlisted it as being protected. This became another factor as to why the government stopped water irrigation to farmers and further influenced the preservation of water flow in the Klamath Basin. There were not enough ground water resources to satisfy both, the senior rights of tribes, and the junior rights of farmers, and so the Bureau of Reclamation governed their responsibility to treaty rights and threats of fishery endangerment and denied farmers of water irrigation. The government had cumulative pressure to stop irrigation deliveries to farmers under the guidance of the Fish and Wildlife Service and the NOAA, as a responsibility to release water for protected species. The decision was required by the law and had effect in protecting economies and traditions of tribal and coastal communities relying on salmon, which was also favourable to the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen Association. The farmers thought they could resolve the conflict by suing the government for $28,582,310 as compensation for violating the Fifth Amendment, but they were denied as the government evaluated the case in regulatory terms of lawful obligation, rather than the physical taking of private property.

            This article exemplifies a value conflict as farmers believed that their right to water irrigation was more important than treaty rights and ecological concerns identified by the Klamath Basin tribes, the Endangered Species Act, Fish and Wildlife service, NOAA Fisheries, and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen Association. Farmers valued their crop failure at $28,582,310, meanwhile the government stood by their decision to respond to regulatory and ecological procedures, thus rejecting the farmer’s lawsuit of $28,582,310.

Another recognized conflict, is conflict of interest when the farmers believed that they had water rights and should not have to pay the price of the drought and watch their livelihoods dry up in their crops. Whereas, the government believed that the farmers could pay the cost of the drought as their legislature and economy were on the line if they did not abide by the treaties and agencies predicting fishery failure. California would be left in a worst off position compared to the initial drought, if they were to further invest their scarce water into the agriculture industry, it would be creating an ecological positive feedback and violate treaty rights. To provide farmers with water solely for their crops, before satisfying treaty agreements and environmental security, would be illogical and unjust. The US government believes that farmers can do without water, and supports the Bureau of Reclamation in rightfully allocating it to the Klamath Basin tribes to respect the treaty and environment.