KLAMATH FALLS — Trucks roared through downtown Klamath Falls for nearly an hour Monday in a rally in support of farmers and ranchers losing irrigation water as a drought tightens.
Sponsors said the rally was designed to draw attention to the impact of water shutoffs under way in the Upper Klamath Basin, where the Kla-math Tribes have exercised newly affirmed water rights in the interest of conserving fish. There were 225 vehicles in the convoy that went from the Klamath County Fairgrounds to downtown, organizer Eric Duarte said.
The Klamath Falls Herald and News estimated about 500 people on the sidewalks and steps in front of the courthouse and government center.
Duarte, a Beatty auctioneer and water user, told the paper in advance of the rally that his water coming from the Sprague River was shut off last week, and he may have to sell yearlings before they reach full weight, salvaging as much of his remaining feed for his cows and calves as he can.
"We want to show a little awareness of what is going on in the Klamath Basin as far as agriculture," he said. "It does not have anything to do with the upper Basin or the tribe. It states an agricultural and economic impact awareness. It's a rally to show awareness in Klamath Basin about the only industry we have left."
The rally came a dozen years after tensions over a drought and water curtailments reached a peak. On July 1, 2001, the control mechanism known as the headgates to a major irrigation canal were opened illegally as protests over restrictions that year intensified.