Reason #354 why the Tea Party will eventually slit its own throat

Carla Axtman

There has been a century long battle raging in the Klamath Basin over water. To put it simply, there just isn't enough to go around. The Bureau of Reclamation began the Klamath Project in 1906 in order to provide farmers with irrigation. Ever since, the region has been plagued by fighting. Native Americans and fishermen want water for salmon. Electricity interests want hydropower. And farmers--irrigation.

In 2010, an agreement was reached between the stakeholders to end the long-standing conflict. The agreement included:

  1. The removal of four hydro dams in the Klamath River
  2. Increased water flows for fish, especially during dry years
  3. Settlement of water-related litigation and increased water certainty for irrigators
  4. Reintroduction of salmon to historic range in the Upper Basin
  5. Large-scale habitat restoration in the Upper and Lower Basin
  6. “Safe harbor” for participating farmers and ranchers
  7. Renewable energy and affordable power options for the agricultural community
  8. Economic revitalization programs for tribal communities
  9. A coordination council managing the watershed as one

Fast forward to today.

William Yardley, New York Times: Tea Party Blocks Pact to Restore a West Coast River:

A month after it (the agreement) was announced, seven people gathered at Jack Charlton’s machine shop south of downtown Klamath Falls and formed the Klamath County Tea Party Patriots. Four of them were farmers wary of losing their water. One was Mr. Charlton, who fixed their equipment. Mr. Charlton recalled the anger and worry in the room that night. Many felt the government was more worried about endangered fish than endangered farmers.

“It was like, ‘Where have I been?’ ” he said. “ ‘Have I been asleep all these years?’ The last thing that they want to take away is our water.”

The Tea Party Patriots became a local political force, eventually paralyzing the high-powered deal by defeating many of the local officials who supported it, including all three Klamath County commissioners, and sending a signal to Congress that it lacks enough grass-roots support.

The restoration deal “is not going to go anywhere at all,” said Tom Mallams, a farmer and newly elected county commissioner who, with Tea Party backing, unseated a 15-year incumbent. “It’s slowly dying on the vine.”

So the Klamath Tea Party wants to keep their cushy, federally funded welfare program in place--and have replaced elected officials in Klamath County to ensure their position.

In the end, they'll probably lose the water anyway:

The Klamath Tribes have recently received favorable rulings in state administrative courts on lawsuits they first filed in the 1970s to gain control of the water upstream. If the tribes eventually win — a decision is due late this year — opponents of the agreement could find themselves wishing they had been more supportive. “It’s about economies, and the Klamath Tribes’ economy is just as important as anyone else’s economy,” said Jeff Mitchell, a member of the Klamath tribal council who has been central to negotiations for the agreement.

Meanwhile, the Klamath Tea Party is stewing in it's own juice, justifying their nursing off the government teat by pretending the whole Klamath agreement is just a big, green conspiracy:

Mr. Mallams and some of the agreement’s other most vocal opponents do not draw water directly from the irrigation system, but they benefit from it in other ways, including from the affordable power supply the dams have provided. They frequently accuse supporters of the agreement of wanting to remove the Klamath dams as part of an environmental campaign to remove much larger dams on the Columbia River that provide the backbone of the power supply in the Northwest.

Klamath County Commissioner Tom Mallams and his supporters should consider familiarizing themselves with the phrase "pyrrhic victory". It's about to become extremely relevant to their world.

Comments

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    This is Klamath Falls, a center of irrationality and extremism. (stated by former resident) It should be noted that these farmers not only get free water courtesy of federal subsidies, but also get crop subsidies to boot.

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    The government owns the faucet.

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    The tea baggers rant about private ownership of everything. If there were no public lands, if there were no public water resources, farmers in Eastern Oregon would not grow anything, and ranchers would have little space to graze their cattle. Hunters and fishermen would be locked out of their rivers, lakes, and forest spaces. Irrationality reigns supreme.

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    You are being fooled by the Feds! It is not just the Tea Party which opposes the Klamath Dam and Water Deals but also the activists and environmental organizations which have worked longest to restore the Klamath and Klamath Salmon...including Water Watch and Oregon Wild.

    We oppose these deals because they are sweetheart deals for the 1% which are not in the interest of the River and Klamath Salmon.

    And now the Obama Administration has chosen to politicize the Klamath further by blaming the Tea Party and trying to make the Klamath into an us v them football.

    DON'T BE FOOLED. HELP US KILL THESE DEALS. WHEN WE GET PAST THIS DIVERSION FROM THE REAL TASK THE DAMS WILL COME OUT QUICKER AND THE SALMON WILL DO BETTER.

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      Felice:

      Respectfully, you're not going to get your way either.

      You're better off coming together, giving up some stuff and getting more of what you want. There's not enough water for every need--and if you dig in your heels and appear on the extreme, all you'll end up with is another 100 years of protracted fighting subject to the whims of whomever is in charge of the politics.

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    If the Tea Party Patriots in Klamath and elsewhere were content to slit their own throats, I'd be happy to encourage them. My concern is that it's more likely they'll continue to act as suicide bombers in the body politic.

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    Yet it was the federal government that set up this disaster. Besides the points mentioned by Carla there were all of the land and water rights grants circa WWII. From there forward, no one was ever going to win.

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