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Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. WALDEN. Mr. Chairman, nearly a decade ago the farmers and families in the Klamath Basin suffered irreparable harm when two government agencies with conflicting demands and questionable data shut off water for irrigated agriculture, threatening a way of life and the economy of the region. Fertile farmlands turned to dust under the summer sun. A wildlife refuge nearly dried up. Some farmers whose families had tilled the soil and grown crops for generations lost everything and filed for bankruptcy. The stress was too much for some. One died of a heart attack and another took his own life.

Out of that aftermath, the House Resources Committee, then chaired by Jim Hansen of Utah and Richard Pombo of California, went to work with me trying to find short-term solutions and work on the long term. Principals in the basin, as you have heard, found common ground where they had been apart, and they reached agreement that they have brought forth to KBRA and the KHSA.

However, it's clear to me that the agreements as written do not have those in charge of the Resources Committee today. The gentleman from California (Mr. McClintock) and the gentleman from Washington (Mr. Hastings) have made that clear. There is little point, then, in spending more of the taxpayers' money, especially during these dire fiscal times, on an effort that is unlikely to move forward in its present form.

Given that reality, I will support the gentleman from California (Mr. McClintock). The House's decision today, however, will not lessen the threat to irrigated agriculture in the Klamath Basin. It does not add to water storage. It does not provide protection to the ratepayers. It does not resolve the water rights disputes.

It does mean, however, the burden of finding a timely and effective solution to conflicts in the Klamath Basin now resides in the Resources Committee and those who rejected these plans, because there is no escaping the fact that the problems remain, the conflicts grow and the courts call all the shots absent legislative action.

Nearly a decade ago, the farmers and families in the Klamath Basin suffered irreparable harm when two government agencies, with conflicting demands and questionable data shut off the water for irrigated agriculture, threatening a way of life and the economy of the region. Fertile farmlands turned to dust under the summer sun. A wildlife refuge nearly dried up. Some farmers whose families had tilled the soil and grown crops for generations lost everything and filed for bankruptcy. The stress was too much for some ..... one farmer died of a heart attack and another took his own life.

Meanwhile, the nation's attention turned to the plight of the Klamath Basin farm families and more than 15,000 members of the community turned out in a symbolic bucket brigade that stretched from one end of town to the other.

I was a member of the House Resources Committee then, and our chairmen, first Jim Hansen of Utah and later Richard Pombo of California, responded to my calls for help with hearings and legislation. And the Bush Administration weighed in, too. We were committed to finding lasting solutions to prevent another water cut off. We put in place historic conservation efforts to improve water management. We got funds to screen the A canal and to remove Chiloquin dam. We created water banks and added to storage--although not by enough.

And then the principals in the Basin who often were on opposing sides, spent years trying to find common ground. They worked in good faith, tirelessly in search of a long-term plan to prevent another water cutoff. They should be commended for their work. And it is the culmination of that effort--with all of the controversy that surrounds it--that brings us here today.

It is clear to me, that the agreements as written do not have the support of those in charge at the Resources Committee. The gentleman from California Mr. MCCLINTOCK and the gentleman from Washington, Mr. HASTINGS, have made it abundantly clear that they will not move forward on the KBRA or the KHSA.

There is little point in spending more of the taxpayers' money--especially during these dire fiscal times--on an effort that is unlikely to move forward in its present form. Given that reality, I will join them today in voting for this limiting amendment.

The House's decision today will not lessen the threat to irrigated agriculture in the Klamath Basin. It does not add to water storage. It does not provide protection to ratepayers. It does not resolve water rights disputes.

It does mean, however, that the burden of finding a timely and effective solution to the conflicts in the Klamath Basin now resides with the Resources Committee and those who rejected this plan, because there is no escaping the fact that the problems remain. The conflicts grow. And the courts call the shots, absent legislative action.

I pray that we never have to see a repeat of the disaster of 2001. I look forward to working with the Chairman Mr. HASTINGS and the Subcommittee Chairman Mr. MCCLINTOCK on whatever plan they have in mind to bring about a comprehensive, Basin-wide solution. And I know they must understand, especially in this water year, how critical prompt action is.

Doing nothing is not an option.

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