‘No one can win’: Drought ruins lives in the Western Basin of the United States | Way of life

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GILLIAN FLACCUSAP communication

Tulelake, Calif. (AP) – Ben Duval kneels in a barren field near the California-Oregon border, pressing the ground dry as dust demons swirl around him and birds fly between pipes irrigation systems. I picked it up.

DuVal’s family has farmed the land for three generations, but for the first time this summer, hundreds of people who depend on him and a federally-controlled lake to extinguish the fields are not getting any water from it. Hmm.

While farmland lies fallow, the 257 mile (407 km) long Native American tribe by the river flowing from the lake to the Pacific Ocean helplessly watch over the endangered fish that are inseparable from the culture. ..

This summer, the historic drought and its aftermath disrupted the community and brought outside attention to the years of the water crisis. Competition for the waters of the Klamath River has always been fierce, but it is no longer sufficient and all players are suffering.

“Everyone depends on the water from the Klamath River for a living. It is the blood that binds us all. No one is coming out this year. No one can win, ”said Duval.

Nightmares fear that extreme droughts are a precursor to global warming.

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Frankie Myers, vice president of the Yurok tribe, which monitors the mass kills of large numbers of fish in the river, said: “It’s painful.

Twenty years ago, when the water supply to irrigation systems fell sharply during another drought, the crisis became a call for national rallies for political rights, with some protesters violating federal orders. Opening of an irrigation canal.

This time, many irrigators reject the existence of rebel militants. Farmers who need federal help to float for fear of a relationship with the far right can hurt them.

Meanwhile, the main lakes in the basin are teeming with toxic algae, depleting two important national wildlife areas for migrating birds.

This situation has exacerbated the water conflict that took its roots over a century ago.

Since 1906, the federal government has redesigned a complex system of lakes, marshes and rivers within the 10 million acres (4 million hectares) of the Klamath River basin to create tens of thousands of acres of land irrigated agriculture.

The Klamath Regeneration Project draws water from 96 square miles (248 square kilometers) of Upper Klamath Lake. However, the lake is also home to sucker fish, which are central to the history of Klamath culture and creation.

In 1988, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service designated two types of sucker fish as endangered. The federal government must keep the lake at a minimum depth to feed the fish, but this year there is enough water to run it and provide irrigation equipment in the event of an exceptional drought. There was not.

“Agriculture must be based on sustainability. Too little water is too many people, ”he said.

There is also no additional water for the salmon downstream, as the Klamath tribes force their superior water rights to help sucker fish.

Last month, the Kalks declared a state of emergency due to climate change and the worst hydrological conditions in modern history in the Klamath River basin. Aaron Troy Hockaday Sr., a citizen of the Karuk tribe, is a fourth generation fisherman who says he hasn’t caught fish in the river since the mid-90s.

“I have two grandchildren, three and one. I will have grandchildren this fall. How can I teach you how to be a fisherman if you don’t have fish? “

Tribal problems downstream are exacerbated by hydroelectric dams blocking the passage of salmon.

In most years, a tribe 200 miles (320 km) southwest of a farmer whose river reaches the sea asks the Pioneer Department to issue an additional water pulse from Upper Klamath Lake. Excess water reduces the occurrence of parasitic diseases that develop when rivers are low.

This year, federal agencies turned down those requests.

Parasites are now killing thousands of young salmon in the lower reaches of the Klamath River, where the Karku and Yurok have coexisted with them for thousands of years. Last month, an average of 63% of fish caught in research traps near the estuary were dead.

“This is all unprecedented,” said Jamie Holt, chief fisheries engineer for Yurok. “Where are you going from here?” When do you start a larger conversation about total sustainability? “

Some farmers who see the same drought disrupting their lives near the source of the river say they guarantee less water each year than in the dry fields. .. Some worries in the basin are attributed to their way of life.

“I think it’s easy to stop the project,” said Tricia Hill, a fourth generation farmer. “But the stories told may not represent how progressive we are here and want to make things better for all species. This monospecific management works for fish. No, and it destroys our community and harms our wildlife. “

DuVal’s daughter dreams of one day taking over a family farm. But DuVal isn’t sure he and his wife, Erika, can hold on to the earth if things don’t change.

Duval, president of the Klamath Water Users Association, said: “And this plan is being exposed more and more every year of bad water.”

Copyright 2021 AP communication. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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