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Letter to the Editor
By Felice Pace, Klamath, CA
June 18, 2004

Irrigation Savings Are Not Real

The June 11th Capital Press edition contained an article titled "The 2002 U.S. farm bill turns 2" which featured an insert on Klamath EQIP. Under this provision of the Farm Bill $31 million has already been given to Klamath River basin farmers to upgrade their irrigation systems. The special program - administered by the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) - was intended to "reduce irrigation demand" and NRCS claims that "calculated reduction in on-farm irrigation demand is 63,377 acre feet." The key word here is "calculated." This means the water savings claimed are paper water which may or may not materialize on the ground. So how much water is really being saved?

The word from NRCS staff and local restorationists is that many of the projects funded will not save water and some may actually increase irrigation demand. For example, i've observed a project in the Scott River Valley that provided center pivot irrigation on pasture lands on the edge of the valley where flat land yields to alluvial terraces and fans. These lands have traditionally been flood irrigated from ditches.

However, because the alluvial areas are porous, these ditches ran dry sometime in July or August - depending on snow pack. With the new center pivot system, this ranch can extend irrigation throughout the late Summer and Fall - far beyond when its water use ended previously. Furthermore, the rancher can now convert from pasture to alfalfa - a more profitable crop. Such a change would result in additional water use even in the Spring and early Summer.

NRCS officials know that such projects exist but they refuse to blow the whistle or take any action to stem the abuse. Instead they claim the paper water savings. Furthermore, NRCS has refused to provide information on the projects citing confidentiality - essentially protecting the "trade secrets" of participating farmers.

In short, there is a conspiracy of silence. The abuses are widely discussed by locals but no one has yet stepped up to challenge the abuse - to blow the whistle.

This is not the only example of perversion of taxpayer-funded "conservation" and "restoration" programs. By all indications such abuses are increasing. little wonder that in spite of nearly a billion dollars spent on "restoration" in the Klamath River Basin over the past 20 years, salmon and other fish kills have increased and become more severe and water quality has continued to decline.

Members of Congress who represent the Klamath River Basin include Greg Walden, Wally Herger, Mike Thompson, Ron Wyden, Gordon Smith, Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein. One or more of these officials should to step forward and unmask the abuse. These are taxpayer funds and the taxpayers deserve honesty and integrity in the disbursement of these funds.

Members of Congress have also been informed of the abuse.

Felice Pace, Klamath CA

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