By now, it’s likely you’ve heard that Judge Orrick indicated his courtroom was not the right venue for Klamath Tribes v United States Bureau of Reclamation, et al. For the Basin and our communities, this is good news, though temporarily so. Yes, Klamath Basin farms and ranches located within the Klamath Project will not have the water turned off yet and this year’s crops have a chance of being harvested.
But that doesn’t mean this over.
Not by far.
Judge Orrick indicated this case should be tried in Oregon since the waters and the complaint are both located in Oregon. Yes, the impacts of the decision will still be felt in Klamath, Modoc and Siskiyou Counties as well as downriver in the entire Klamath River watershed. 2019 is still up in the air for Basin family farms and ranchers, and as result, for rural communities that depend on Klamath Ag.
But it the long term effects go beyond 2019 and 2020, when a new BiOp is released.
The current litigation has created a rift in our communities. While this continues to be played as an Ag vs Tribes situation, the truth is much more complicated than that. If the c’waam in Upper Klamath Lake die out, our Klamath Tribe community – as well as anyone who cares about the ecology of the lake – loses an important part of our environment as well as the Tribe’s cultural heritage. If that doesn’t concern our communities to give a damn about the c’waam, the Endangered Species Act should. The ESA has listed these fish, and it’s under the ESA that these expensive, courtroom battles will continue.
So, yes, the fate of the c’waam matters to everyone in the Basin. Regardless of how this effects your life, whether it’s out of heritage or out of being able to make a living, these fish matter to our communities. Even though Judge Orrick has given our family ranchers and farmers a chance to make it through the year, the benefit to our communities throughout the Basin and the Klamath River watershed are temporary.
This summer has taken a toll on the next generation, and if you need proof, read this article from the SF Chronicle about how this current legal battle over water is affecting the next generation. If you put your politics aside and read through the whole article, you can see not only this girl who is caught between ideologies, you can see this in the children of your own community.
Some of us are breathing a little easier today because there’s a chance our communities won’t feel the full brunt of full shut-off of the Klamath Project. With that said, there are others who are worried about what this means for the fate of the c’waam and our environment. If everyone is truly interested in stopping these ongoing water wars, we need to find a solution that works for everyone in our communities.
We need to be honest about what the c’waam and other fish need. We need to be honest about how much of a role family farms and ranches play in our economy and in supporting our communities . And we need to be honest about how our communities are affected by both fish and farms.
While Judge Orrick indicated his courtroom wasn’t the correct venue for this case to be heard, he didn’t indicate anybody won on the 20th. If anything, he’s pushing for a comprehensive solution to be created that benefits families, fish and fowl.
And the time to find that solution is now.