May 26, 2020
Growers facing water shutoffs in the Klamath Basin straddling the California-Oregon state line are planning a giant tractor rally on Friday reminiscent of the region's 2001 water protests that gained national media attention.
The "Call to Unity" tractor convoy will travel about 20 miles, starting on a farm at about 10 a.m. and continuing through downtown Klamath Falls, Ore., and past the head gates of the Klamath Irrigation Project's main canal, the Klamath Falls Herald and News reports.
Klamath Water Users Association vice president Ben DuVal and other organizers hope as many as 1,000 people show up with their tractors, logging trucks and other equipment, he told the newspaper.
The protest comes after the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation initially forecast 140,000 acre-feet of water for the project but cut its allocation to 80,000 acre-feet for the entire year, meaning water for farms could be gone before midsummer, KOBI-TV in Medford reported.
Symbolic white crosses
The convoy will end at a local farm field, where each driver will plant a symbolic white cross in the ground, according to the local newspaper.
“This symbolic act will honor those who farmed before us, including the unfortunate families who no longer operate because of the increasingly uncertain water supply,” Tulelake, Calif., farmer Scott Seus said in a news release. “For the remainder of this summer, those crosses will provide a grim reminder to passersby of the fate that awaits our rural communities if things don’t change.”
Water wars have been a way of life for decades in the Klamath Basin, where farms, endangered fish, local American Indian tribes and downstream fishing businesses vie for limited supplies. The so-called "bucket brigade" protests in 2001 drew participants from throughout the West and prompted then-President George W. Bush's administration to boost deliveries to growers the following year, which in turn was blamed for a die-off of fish.
The U.S. Drought Monitor shows the basin to be in moderate drought following a dry winter.
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