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By Claire Heil
September 23, 2001

We live in Southern Oregon which is a semi-arid region subject to flash floods so our watershed health depends on stored irrigation water for survival. The citizens are being denied their water rights by attorneys working with Oregon's Governor Kitzhaber. The Governor has refused to give our irrigation district, which is an irreplaceable component of the infrastructure of both Josephine and Jackson Counties, their water rights, unless the locally owned water district agrees to remove their dam.

Because the governor is threatening to bankrupt the district, his attorney, Bob Hunter, has taken control of the Grants Pass Irrigation District. The local people elected board members who were in favor of saving the dam, but they have been coerced into giving control to Hunter who threatens legal action against the district.

We also elected Republicans who promised to protect our private property rights, but now refuse to fight for us, because they work for special interests and are in business with the U.S. Government. The Republican Party Chairman of Oregon owns a radio station operating under government permit and control, so does Greg Walden (R), our U.S. Congressman for the 2nd District, and our local State Representative, Carl Wilson (R). All three own and operate radio stations for a living. Oregon's U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D) and Gordon Smith (R) are working together to pass SB 3227 which would blow up the natural water-driven dam and replace it with huge electric pumps, powered by a coal-fired plant in Wyoming. This would cost U.S. taxpayers a minimum of $22 million dollars, but special interest groups see this as a giant step toward blowing up more dams throughout the country at taxpayer's expense.

Savage Rapids Dam has state-of-the-art fish screens and fish ladders, built and designed by government agencies, and a firm, approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service, did a study over a three-year period (1998-2000), which showed a 0.1% mortality rate. The study proved that the dam is not a fish killer, plus, the Army Corps of Engineers has declared the dam structurally sound.

Using 'junk' science, and taking advantage of bad laws and unreasonable regulations, they are using a politically active court system to deny the people water needed for their survival. Governor Kitzhaber and the radical special interest groups are holding the people hostage by denying us the water needed to run our irrigation district, unless we agree to blow up our dam.

Here's some background on the great Northwest fish story -- that salmon are in danger of becoming extinct -- and therefore are listed on the Endangered Species Act. Agency scientists, the same ones who write biological opinions, set the policy of saving the fish by denying water to irrigators, or forcing dams to set aside water and spill it over at key times, sparing fish the hydro-electric turbines and flushing them out to the ocean. Two decades and $3 billion in tax dollars has been spent on salmon recovery, and it has proven itself to be a complete failure. No salmon run in the Northwest's Columbia Basin is in recovery. But bureaucrats will not admit failure, instead they demand more water and move to blow up dams. The truth is, this year we had the largest salmon run in six decades, and these runs cannot be attributed to bureaucratic efforts to save them, they seem to be doing just fine on their own.

In fact, Oregon's Department of Fish and Wildlife employees have been caught clubbing thousands of salmon to death, and the use of spill water over dams for fish passage may create a dangerous toxin in the water that is harmful to fish. The greatest danger to Northwest salmon comes from government agencies.

Government agencies are also destroying the largest wildlife habitat for migrating birds in the United States by denying Klamath Basin farmers their irrigation water, and are turning the area into a dust bowl. President Bush missed his opportunity two months ago -- when the administration did not immediately take advantage of a provision in the Endangered Species Act that gives the President the power to give the farmers their water.

The State of California, which is 1/4th of our country's economy, is suffering because these special interest control the government there and have been moving across our great nation to gain control. Our elected officials have refused to fight this war. Instead, we find ourselves losing the battle. We need help from Americans who understand that if we lose this battle, the war for our private property rights may be lost forever. This isn't just a regional problem, it effects every American.

� 2001 Claire Heil - All Rights Reserved

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Claire Heil is the secretary of the Water Shead Council in southern Oregon.








"Using 'junk' science, and taking advantage of bad laws and unreasonable regulations, they are using a politically active court system to deny the people water needed for their survival."