Yet another Clinton-appointed judge has struck a blow against private economic rights, holding that the Bureau of Reclamation could charge citizens to build their water supply, contract to deliver water to them from it, and then breach the contract without paying compensation. The Bureau of Reclamation's senseless determination to hold the levels of Upper Klamath Lake higher (when fish kills usually occur), premised on the dishonest characterization of suckers and salmon as endangered, remains sacrosanct. Perhaps this latest decision will bring residents of the Klamath Basin one step closer to seeing, and uniting against, their common enemy: the Federal government.
The irrigators in the Basin paid in full many years ago for the construction of the facilities that serve them. Other irrigators demanded and received title to their systems, but the Klamath irrigators have refused to take title, frightened into continued subservience by dire threats concerning the costs of complying with senseless Federal mandates. The mandates, in turn, are created by those purporting to represent the Klamath Tribe, whose real interest is in recovering its lost reservation, not pressing bogus water rights claims in endless proceedings.
And yet another blow against the Basin looms from the corrupt corporate empire of PacifiCorp, which is poised to impose truly drastic rate increases, making irrigators pay many times over actual cost for the power generated by their own dams. Local leaders consider it a success to limit the prospective rate increases to "only" fifty percent a year!
Real leadership in the Klamath Basin would elevate the interests of the citizens in the Basin above those of distant environmentalists and corporate stockholders. Real leadership would transfer title of the Klamath Basin project to the Klamath irrigators, transfer National Forest lands to the Klamath Tribe in exchange for the Tribe relinquishing its claims against others in the Basin, and secure a new hydropower license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a newly-formed public utility district operating the Klamath River facilities. All this could be accomplished with a single Act of Congress, and a couple of local elections.
Fostering economical electric power, revitalizing irrigated agriculture, and opening up new timber supplies would brighten the future of the entire Basin. But the present leaders of the Klamath Basin have a different vision: fostering continued Federal dependence, enriching the well-connected few, and bringing armies of bureaucrats and their families to buy houses in the Basin. The leaders fiddle as the Feds pump the Region's aquifer dry for no apparent purpose--other than to line the pockets of those clever enough to drill wells and sell the water to the Federal government. Widespread fraud in the agricultural relief programs confirms the usual demoralizing effects of government handouts. And at the same time the Federal government sends money to the farmers, it spends even more to make war on them with armies of conservation biologists, and to pit the Basin's communities against each other.
As the Nation sinks deeper and deeper into hock to foreigners, with an exploding budget deficit, trade deficit and national debt, it becomes clearer and clearer that the Big Mommy Government strategy is not sustainable. The boom times caused by loose credit and printing money to shower everywhere will come to a bad end. When the money finally dries up, there will be nothing left but the largely-deserted remains of a once-great agricultural empire, the few businesses that can survive under the staggeringly high costs left behind, and those who make their living from the ever-higher taxes. The sooner Klamath Basin residents, Tribal and non-Tribal, can see this, the sooner they can unite to recover control of their own destiny.
© James Buchal, September 22, 2005
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