KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. – Klamath Basin farmers say they’re “Shut Down, and Fed Up” over failed water policies.
The convoy and rally began early Friday morning in Merrill.
Congressman Greg Walden was on hand. He said, “We’ve got to do this rally, to make this case to the country.”
“This rally is not just about this year,” added event co-organizer Bob Gasser. “It’s about the future of this farm community. We need changes, so we won’t be out here in another ten years, doing the same darn thing.”
Hundreds of tractors and other agricultural equipment rumbled through downtown Klamath Falls.
Walden believes current water policies aren’t helping endangered fish, or farmers. “We’ve gone through all the things, to screen the canal, remove dams, to do all the stuff we’ve been told to do, taken land out of production,” he said. “And I don’t hear anybody making the argument suckers are any better. But we do know the farmers are a lot worse.”
Tribal member and hemp farmer Joey Gentry agrees current policies aren’t effective. He said, “What we’re doing is not working. We have to work together. We have to embrace regenerative agriculture. we have to improve the health of our soil.”
Gasser believes the summer of 2020 could be worse than 2001, when water was shut off completely to the Klamath Project. “Everybody this year put crops in the ground, huge investments, and chances are, most of those crops will not get a drop of water,” Gasser said. “In 2001, we knew way ahead of time. Nobody planted a crop.”
“This is a tough year,” said farmer Jimmy Alexander. “And if we don’t get any water, we’re done.”
Current policy is aimed at storing extra water in Upper Klamath Lake for endangered suckers.
Gasser believes that less water may be the key to sucker health. “Very well could be the solution,” he said. “We’ve got to try it again. We used to do it in the 90s, only in drought years. We’d drop the lakes down, and for some reason, it worked.”
Congressman Walden said he’s hoping to bring out some White House cabinet secretaries to view the situation first hand. He said, “I was on the phone today with the White House, I was working with the chiefs of staff, the president last night, and we’ll see. they’re obviously concerned about this, they’re very aware of it.”
The convoy was followed by an afternoon rally south of Klamath Falls near Midland.
A field of 2,000 crosses symbolized the potential end of agriculture in the Klamath Basin.
KOTI-TV NBC2 reporter Lyle Ahrens moved from Nebraska to Klamath Falls in the late 1970’s. He instantly fell in love with the mountains, the trees and the rivers, and never once regretted the move.Lyle’s job history is quite colorful.
He’s managed a pizza parlor; he’s been a bartender, and a “kiwifruit grader” at an organic orchard in New Zealand. A Klamath Falls radio station hired Lyle in the mid 90’s as a news writer and commercial producer. In 2004, Lyle joined the KOTI/KOBI news operation.Lyle notes with pride that he has a big responsibility presenting the Klamath Basin to a wide and varied audience.
“The on-going water crisis has underscored the fact that the people and the issues in the Klamath Basin are every bit as diverse as the terrain. Winning and keeping the trust of the viewers, as well as the newsmakers, is something I strive for with each story”.
When he’s not busy reporting the news, Lyle enjoys astronomy, playing guitar, fixing old radios and listening to anything by Sheryl Crow.