Tulelake, CA (AP) — Ben Duval kneels in a barren field near the California-Oregon border, squeezing dry soil as dust demons swirl around him and birds fly between empty irrigation pipes. I scooped it up.
DuVal’s family has cultivated the land for three generations, but this summer, hundreds of people who depend on irrigation from a depleted lake controlled by him and the federal government have never obtained water from the land. Hmm.
As farmlands fallow, Native American tribes along the 257-mile (407 km) long river that flows from the lake to the Pacific are helpless to kill swarms of fish that are inseparable from food and culture, or not to spawn in shallow waters. I’m watching over you. water.
In just a few weeks of summer, historic droughts and their above-ground effects disrupt communities in this diverse basin, filled with flat views of vast alfalfa and potato fields, wetlands and steep canyons of primeval forest. doing.
The competition for water from meandering rivers has always been fierce. But this summer is simply not enough, and the farmers, tribes, and wildlife sanctuaries who have been competing for each drop are now facing a dark and uncertain future together.
“Everyone depends on the water of the Klamath River to make a living. That is the blood that connects us all …. Just as I want children to have the opportunity to teach them how to farm. They want the opportunity to teach their children how to fish for salmon, “Dubar said of the downstream Yuroks and Klamaths. Year. No one wins. “
With decades of water rights conflicts reaching their boiling points, nightmares are worried that unprecedented droughts in the Klamath River basin are a precursor to accelerated global warming.
“For me, for my family, I think this is a direct result of climate change,” said the Yurok vice president, who is monitoring large-scale fish kills where the river enters the sea. One Frankie Myers said. “The system is crashing not only for the Yurok people, but also for people above and below the Klamath River basin. It’s heartbreaking.”
Twenty years ago, when water supply to farms fell sharply in another drought, the crisis became a cry for a national rally for political rights, with some protesters violating federal orders. The fence was breached and the main irrigation canal was opened.
But today, as reality sinks, many irrigators reject the existence of rebel activists who have re-established camps. Irrigators at risk of losing their farms and in need of federal support in the aftermath of the January 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol may be disfigured by their relationship with far-right activities. I’m afraid.
Some farmers are getting groundwater from wells to slow down their losses, and a few farmers getting streams from other rivers will be significantly reducing water during just a small part of the summer. Everyone shares the water they have.
Duval, president of the Klamath Water Users Association, said: A shipwreck that seems to be happening too often? “
Meanwhile, the major lakes in the basin, an important habitat for the endangered remora, are filled with toxic algae a month earlier than normal, and are two national wildlife sanctuaries that are the cornerstones of migratory birds on the Pacific Flyway. Is depleted. Environmentalists and farmers combine water from two stagnant wetlands into one deep wetland to prevent another outbreak of botulism in birds that killed 50,000 ducks last summer. I am using a pump.
This activity exposed thousands of acres of dry, cracked landscapes that were likely not on the surface for thousands of years.
“The assigned water doesn’t even exist. This is all unprecedented. Where are we going from here? When will we start a bigger conversation about full sustainability?” Klamath River Jamie Holt, the chief fisherman of the Yurok tribe, who counts the young chinook salmon that die downstream every day, said.
“When I started this job 23 years ago, extinction wasn’t part of the conversation. If there’s another year like we’re seeing, extinction is what we’re talking about. . “
Extreme droughts have exacerbated water conflicts that date back more than a century.
Since 1906, the federal government has redesigned a complex system of lakes, marshes and rivers in the 10 million acres (4 million hectares) of the Klamath River basin to create fertile farmland. We built embankments and dams to block and divert the river, divert water from the natural lake that straddles the California-Oregon border.
Evaporation then reduced the lake to a quarter of its previous size, creating thousands of acres of arable land in areas that had been underwater for thousands of years.
In 1918, the United States began giving homes to the dry parts of Lake Tule. With the priority of World War I and World War II veterans, the Klamath Revitalization Project soon became an agricultural powerhouse. Today, the farmers there grow everything from mint to alfalfa to potatoes, going to In’N Out Burger, Frito-Lay and Kettle Foods.
The water that flows from the fields flows into the National Wildlife Sanctuary, which continues to provide rest for tens of thousands of birds each year. In a transformed ecosystem, shelters consist of a picturesque wetland oasis called the Everglades in the west, full of white pelicans, grebes, herons, bald eagles, blackbirds and terns.
Last year, as the drought spread, shelters received very little water from irrigation projects. They won’t get anything this summer.
In a better year of water, the project provided some protection for birds, but did not do the same for fish and riverside tribes.
Farmers pump water from 96 square miles (248 square kilometers) of Upper Klamath Lake, which is also a habitat for sucker fish. Fish have been the centerpiece of the Klamath tribes’ culture and creative story, and have been an important food source in harsh landscapes for thousands of years.
In 1988, two years after the tribe regained federal approval, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service listed two species of remora spawning in the lake and its tributaries as endangered. The federal government needs to keep very shallow lakes to a minimum depth for spawning in the spring and keep them alive as they breathe oxygen in the fall when toxic algae bloom.
This year, in an exceptional drought, there was not enough water to secure these levels and supply irrigation facilities. Alex Gonau, a senior Klamath fish biologist, said some remora were unable to breed because the lake’s water was below mandated levels, despite the irrigation being cut off.
The youngest remora on the lake is now close to 30 years old, and tribes predict that both species may disappear within the next few decades. Even if the fish can spawn, the baby is said to die because of the low water level and lack of oxygen. The tribes are currently raising them in captivity and promise to “speak for fish” in the face of severe water scarcity.
“I don’t think we would have reached such a place when our leaders signed the treaty,” said Klamath Tribes President Don Gentry, “We are forever. I thought I would keep fish. Agriculture should be based on sustainability. Too little water is too many people. “
However, there is no extra water for downstream salmon, as the Klamath tribes are exercising senior water rights to help sucker fish. And now, tribes in different parts of the river are joking for valuable resources.
Last month, the Kalks declared a state of emergency because of climate change and the worst hydrological conditions in modern history in the Klamath River basin. Aaron Troy Hokka Deisina, a tribal citizen of Kalk, used a traditional dip net to catch salmon at a local waterfall. But he says he hasn’t caught fish in the river since the mid-1990s.
“I have two grandchildren, three and one year old. A baby grandson is coming this fall. I’m a fourth generation fisherman, but I have to save a fish going up the river today. I can’t tell you anything about our fishing, “he said. “How can I teach you how to become a fisherman if you don’t have fish?”
“It’s like a big, dark crowd.”
Downstream tribal problems are exacerbated by hydroelectric dams that block salmon movement paths, apart from irrigation projects.
Most years, a tribe 200 miles (320 km) southwest of a farmer whose river reaches the Pacific Ocean asks the Pioneer Department to emit an extra pulse of water from Lake Upper Klamath. The extra flow reduces the outbreak of parasitic diseases that grow when the river is low.
This year, federal agencies rejected these requests because of the drought.
Parasites are now killing thousands of young salmon in the lower Klamath River, where the Karku and Yuroks have co-existed with them for thousands of years. Last month, tribal fish biologists determined that 97% of juvenile spring chinooks in important parts of the river were infected. Recently, 63% of fish caught in survey traps near the estuary have died.
This death is devastating to those who believe it was created to protect the salmon on the Klamath River and are taught that the tribe is not too late when the salmon disappear.
“Everyone is promised something that no longer exists. We see these changes because we are deeply rooted in the environment,” said Holt, a Yurok fishery expert. Changes our way of life. The world cannot see its direct correlation — climate change means less fish, less food. “
Hundreds of miles northeast of the river’s source, some farmers who see the same drought disrupting their lives say they now guarantee that water is scarce. , Water will be better than dry fields every year. And there are concerns that river basin problems, even those caused by their uncontrollable drought, may be blamed on their inherited way of life.
“I think it’s easy to cancel the project,” said Tricia Hill, a fourth-generation farmer who returned to take over a family-owned farm after working as an environmental lawyer.
“But the stories spoken may not represent how progressive we are here and want to make things better for all species. This single species management works for fish. Not — and it’s destroying our community and hurting our wildlife. “
DuVal’s daughter also dreams of taking over her family’s farm someday. But Duval isn’t sure if he and his wife Erica can stick to it if things don’t change.
“To me, it’s like a big, dark cloud that’s always chasing me.” Duval said, “How we have a good business, how we grow our farms, and our daughters into a good university. It seems depressing to know that he had a plan for what he could send. ” Even worse every water year. “
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