Record Crowd Expected for Klamath Falls Congressional Hearin


Mar 11, 2001
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You NoCals going to the hearing might want to drop by the market for some ripe tomaters and be sure to get a front row seat. Gonna be some good targets at this one.

Record Crowd Expected for Klamath Falls Congressional Hearing

By Pat Taylor, Correspondent
June 14, 2001.

( - The largest crowd ever to attend a House Resources Committee hearing is expected to gather in Klamath Falls, Oregon, on Saturday, June 16. But apparently not one of the 24 Democrats on the committee is planning to attend.

The purpose of the hearing is to examine the water crisis and the disastrous effects that the Endangered Species Act is having on communities like those in the Klamath Basin, which straddles the California-Oregon state line.

The hearing was scheduled in response to a huge "bucket brigade" rally that took place in Klamath Falls on May 7 to protest the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's announcement that no water would be made available this year to irrigate the crops of the basin's 1,400 family farms.

Instead of going into farmers' fields, the water once earmarked for irrigation will be used to sustain "critical" or protected habitat for some "endangered" sucker fish and "threatened" salmon.

The Bureau decided to divert water to sucker fish and salmon, after environmental activists filed "citizen" lawsuits under a provision of the ESA. This resulted in a court decision that the rights of the fish take precedence over the farmers' century-old water rights.

It took almost one full month to schedule a date for the congressional hearing in Klamath Falls, said Jeff Eager, a spokesperson for Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), whose office is coordinating the trip.

It was hoped that committee members from the Eastern states, most of whom are Democrats, would be able to make the trip to see first-hand how devastating the effects of the ESA can be on rural communities. But as of Wednesday, according to Eager, "no Democrats have shown an interest up to this point."

A spokesperson for Rep. Nick J. Rahall II (D-W.V.), the committee's ranking Democrat, confirmed that nobody from that side of the aisle is planning to go to Klamath Falls for the hearing.

Eager said at least six Republican committee members will make the trip, including Rep. Richard W. Pombo (R-Calif.), who chairs an ESA Working Group that was set up several months ago to consider possible reform of the ESA.

Pombo will chair Saturday's field hearing, which is expected to draw between 6,000 and 8,000 people. Eager said that will be "by far" the largest turnout ever for a House Resources Committee hearing, and it may even set a record for attendance at any congressional hearing.

The hearing originally was scheduled to be held in a 700-seat theater, but the location had to be moved to an indoor arena at the state fairgrounds to accommodate the anticipated crowd.

Approximately a dozen witnesses will be allowed to speak and take questions from committee members. The Interior Department is sending Deputy Chief of Staff Sue Ellen Wooldridge to testify.

The Interior Department houses both the Bureau of Reclamation and the Fish and Wildlife Service, which originally declared the sucker fish to be "endangered" and produced the original scientific "biological opinion" that determined the "critical habitat" requirements of the sucker fish.

In addition to the witnesses, Eager said written comments will be accepted for inclusion in the official Congressional Record. According to Lynan Baghott, one of the basin's many citizens who have been volunteering countless hours fighting to save their businesses and their communities, a huge effort is being made not only to get people to the hearing, but also to collect as many written comments as possible.

"We need to impress on Congress that the Endangered Species Act needs to be changed," said Baghott.

President Bush already has asked Congress to approve $20 million in emergency funds for the area. Klamath Basin farmers say financial aid might help them make it through this summer, but without a long-term water supply, their farms and communities will cease to exist.

That, many people believe, is exactly what the environmental activists want.

Mike Riley

Mar 15, 2001
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Bill Gaines, CWA Gov Affairs Director, was invited by congress to be one of the witnesses.  Surprise, nobody from DU was asked.  This water situation will be played out in various areas over the next few years in CA.  The terms will be slightly different, but the water, or lack of,  will be the issue.  Remember who is the hunter's voice on these issues and support CWA if you can.  
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