Caught up in one of the most serious cases of environmentalism vs. agriculture over water, growers in the Klamath Basin of California and Oregon may suffer catastrophic losses this year.
"This is a carbon-copy for others. If you get endangered species above and below you, you could face the same situation," Nick Macey, Tulelake, CA, grower and fertilizer dealer said.
Macey encouraged growers in federal water project areas to start writing their congressional representatives before it happens to them.
Macey says growers in the Basin are "basically in shock" after hearing the ruling by the federal judge April 30 that she could not act as a water arbitrator. "We're trying to re-group following that announcement and find out which is the best way to go."
While both California and Oregon congressional representatives are working for favorable decisions on water to support the agriculture base of the Basin, the entire area is "sitting in an Oklahoma dust bowl-type of situation," according to Macey.
"Our area is in a depression. When you consider that our whole system is based on property taxes, the trickle-down economics will hurt everyone in this area-schools, restaurants, police, fire departments-when land values drop," Macey continued.
Macey was unaware that a U.S. Court of Federal Claims ruled May 3 that the government must compensate property owners when it takes or restricts the use of legitimate water rights to protect fish under the Endangered Species Act.
Macey says that would only be right but there is little hope for the 2001-planting season. He said the word is they won't be able to get an appeal unto the court system until this fall. He said some growers are looking at moving acres elsewhere and others will use a limited amount of well water. "We're not through fighting this problem," Macey said.
The growers have formed the Klamath Basin Water Users Association and are putting their efforts together to try to salvage this season.