From: alra@governance.net
Subject: House To Vote On Wallowa Water Grab S 1355

Land Rights Network
American Land Rights Association
PO Box 400 – Battle Ground, WA 98604
Phone: 360-687-3087 – Fax: 360-687-2973 
E-mail: alra@landrights.org or alra@governance.net  
Web Address: http://www.landrights.org 
Legislative Office: 507 Seward Square SE – Washington, DC 20003

House To Vote On Wallowa Water Grab S 1355

Wallowa Valley In Eastern Oregon a Model for Nationwide Land and Water Grabs

If Congress passes S 1355, it will set a precedent for funding the repair or replacement of a private dam with Federal dollars.   Over $40 million.   There are over 10,000 other dams like it nationwide.   This will cost the government far more than just the money need to fix the Wallowa dam.

S 1355 gives the Indians private control of the fish facilities at the dam.  It brings in Endangered Salmon regulations.  Read below for the many reasons why S 1355 is a very bad idea.

There is no need.  Local interests are willing to put up the money to fix the dam.  They don’t want to trade away their future or tie up all their land in endangered species (salmon) regulations.

Don’t let the land and water grabbers sneak this bill through without careful consideration.

All Land and Water Users Should Call Your Congressman.

The Vote on could occur on S 1355 in the next few days.  Congress is going into a Lame Duck session on Tuesday, November 16th.  That usually means bad bills passed in the dark of night with three Congressmen on the House floor.

Yes, the House is using S 1355, the Senate bill number.   The House number was HR 3747.  The bill has never been marked up in the House.  They are just using the Senate bill to sneak this land and water grab through when Congress is distracted.

If you like how the Feds cut off the water in the Klamath Basin using the Endangered Species Act, you’ll love their effort to create a water lockdown in the Wallowa Valley in Eastern Oregon.

Most of the farmers, families and communities in the Wallowa Valley want to head off anything similar to the Klamath Basin before it starts.  They want to head off this precedent setting backroom deal that could be used in your area.

You can make a difference in the looming House vote.  This is important to you no matter where you live.  What is happening in the Wallow Valley is really a road map for how certain groups are seeking land and water grabs all over the country.

By helping the people of the Wallowa Valley, you help yourself by preventing this kind of land and water grab where you live.  By helping save these people you will have them on your side when your battle comes.  And it will come.

In the West especially, Indian groups, watershed activists, environmental groups, Endangered Species Act advocates, fish promoters and a variety of government agencies – state and Federal - are working together to lock up your water and your land.  This is certainly true in the Wallowa Valley.

They are trying to undermine your future by gaining control over your water.
As the old saying goes, “Whoever controls the water controls the land.”

You can help in the following ways:

-----1.  Call your Congressman at the Capital Switchboard, (202) 225-3121 to insist on a markup and full consideration on S 1355 in the House Resources Committee before they vote on what is called the Wallowa Lake Dam Rehabilitation and Water Management Act.  Also send them a fax and e-mail.  Ask them not to rush to judgment on this land and water grab. 

-----2.  Be sure to call the staff of Chairman Richard Pombo of the Resources Committee at (202) 225-2761.  Send a fax to (202) 225-5929.  E-mail him at resources.committee@mail.house.gov   

-----3.  Go to http://www.stopthewatergrab.org to download your own petition to send or e-mail back.    You can download a formatted Testimony Questionnaire by going to http://www.landrights.org

Land and Water Grab Background:

Why you should express your opinion about , called the Wallowa Lake Dam Rehabilitation and Water Management Act:

-----It involves 42 government and tribal agencies who will largely take control over what are now local decisions regarding water.  “Hi, I’m from the government and I’m hear to help you.”  For instance, there will be automated head gates installed on all water diversions controlled by people from outside the valley.

------It will use the Endangered Species Act as a tool to regulate and strangle farming and local communities by facilitating the (re) introduction of endangered species of salmon.

-----The bill takes taxpayer dollars and gives them to private dam owners who have failed to take care of the dam in the first place.  It is a government bailout that is not needed.  Pork barrel spending at its worst.

-----Sets a precedent for bailing out over 10,000 other dams in a similar category.  It creates an incentive for not spending money to take care of dams because the owners can rely on the government to bail them out.  Just one more way of squandering taxpayer deficit dollars. 

-----Gives in to hysterical talk designed to scare people into supporting a project which is not needed, yet will cause great harm to the entire valley.  The dam does need repair but that could be done for as little as $1 to $3 million, not forty plus million in taxpayer dollars.

-----Local agriculture and irrigation interests that own 75% of the irrigated land have been completely left out of the process.  In fact, denied access to the process.  If S 1355 goes forward, it shows land and water grabbers how to grab your land without you having anything to say about it.  

-----It gives the Indians private ownership over fish facilities at the dam at taxpayer expense; and does not even to require them to pay to maintain the facilities.

-----It will likely introduce endangered or threatened species into Wallowa Lake which will lead to a whole new domino process of progressive regulation and water strangulation.

-----It sets a precedent for taking water from one watershed and transfers it to another, for the preferential benefit of fish.

-----If you allow this to happen in the Wallowa Valley, you encourage the extreme green groups, watershed advocates, fish activists and others to try it again other places.

-----It will construct a multi-million dollar pump and pipeline complex which will be used, at most, a few weeks out of the year - when there is enough water to fill the pipeline.  The planners have said what happens in the Wallowa Basin will be a model for what they want to do in many other areas.  It is also a transfer of local control to outsiders.

-----It is largely a con job.  It talks about a plan but there is no plan.  Only a “vision” document which is “a brief project summary.”  It is largely a blank check for planners.  The bill says the City of Joseph needs the dam for their water yet their water comes from the river upstream, not from the dam.  This is clearly a game of “bait and switch.”

Land use control groups are always looking for a way to gain control.  The Endangered Species Act, Wild and Scenic Rivers, Watersheds, water and any other excuse are actually tools to achieve land use control.   This dam repair and water management project is just another means to gain control of private property by controlling the water. 

Three notable examples in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana include:

-----1.  Many people supported the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Plan (ICEBMP) until they saw the details.  American Land Rights led the successful region wide campaign in seven states to stop the plan.  Elements of it still exist.  

Those that had supported it began to realize that bringing the government in and giving agency bureaucrats and outsiders far greater power would vastly increase regulation while reducing grazing, mining, forestry and many recreation uses in most of Eastern Oregon, Washington and Idaho.  Comforting promises camouflaged the eventual devil in the details.  When people finally saw the plan, it was a nightmare. 

There is no written plan for the Wallowa basin.  Blind faith did not work on the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Plan and it won’t work in the Wallowa Valley.

-----2.  Forty-one Oregon rivers were named official Wild and Scenic Rivers in 1988.  Senator Hatfield said that only five million board feet of timber would be lost.

Forestry associations said it would more likely be between 50 and 100 million board feet.  Not one stick of wood has been cut on any of those rivers since that time.  The courts have stopped all harvesting, ridge top to ridge top.  Now the forests are burning.  American Land Rights was brought in late and helped three rivers get out of the bill, plus many landowners and Federal land users.

-----3.  The Klamath Basin farmers came to the basin at the request of the  government.  It was a giant reclamation project.  Who stood up for the farmers and the local community when they were threatened with losing their water?  Not the government.  The fish activists, tribal leaders and environmental groups have joined together to use the Endangered Species Act to try to drive the farmers out, forcing them to lose everything they have in the process.

Though damaged severely, they have not been driven out because the community rose up and blocked the takeover.   American Land Rights members and supporters were the first at the Klamath head gates although many groups were ultimately responsible for the progress and publicity in the Klamath Basin.

Watersheds are being used as a tool all over the west to try to take control away from local communities and water user groups.  The latest and perhaps a poster child for this technique is the Wallowa Valley, its river basin and private dam.

The US House of Representatives will vote on S 1355 that will begin the process of the valley takeover in the next few weeks.  Maybe the next few days.  The bill has been hotlined for immediate action.  

Amazingly, it is, actually a small group of uninformed irrigators who control about 25% of the irrigated land in the Wallowa Valley who are responsible for this looming disaster.  Their group, called the Associated Ditch Co.s (ADC), actually sought government money because they did not have or would not spend the money to maintain the Wallow Lake Dam or fix the deferred maintenance that needs repair.   

It appears they are willing to sell out their neighbors, their children’s future and the future of the entire valley for a taxpayer bail out of their private dam. 

The Wallowa Lake Dam is not in danger of collapse.  It does need repair.    By continually deferring repair, the current ADC owners are creating urgency for repairs that need not have existed.

S 1355 has mushroomed into a huge government boondoggle with only 17% of the over $40,000,000 cost going to fix the dam.  The rest is to do all kinds of other projects that will place endangered fish in Wallowa Lake, bury water ditches, build pipelines and lockup all irrigation water access.  Amazing.  A little help with a little dam has ballooned into a giant takeover.

A few Associated Ditch Co.s (ADC) farmers may benefit financially in the short run but a giant sell out of all the other water and agriculture users is taking place in the process.  All communities in the Valley have their future in jeopardy.

Some members of the House and Senate have gotten involved thinking they were giving relief to some farmers in need, expanding endangered fish habitat and other “good things.”  Unfortunately, most of what looked good is actually VERY BAD.  

The Wallow Valley Agriculture Water Users Association represents the position of most of the landowners and farmers who own 75% of the irrigated land in the Wallowa Valley.  They oppose this Federal takeover of the entire river basin, using dam rehabilitation as the tool. 

Local funds have been offered to repair the dam.  But the Associated Ditch Co.s (ADC) has rejected all loan offers and instead has aligned itself with various governmental and water and land grab groups who prefer using watersheds, the Endangered Species Act and promotion of fish priorities to gain control of water and the land.  Most valley residents are being left out.

The Water Users Association and others in the community have affiliated with the American Land Rights Association in attempt to get their voice heard.   We believe it is in the interest of all land and water users that this project not go forward.  

For more information on this issue go to http://www.stopthewatergrab.org

Also, please forward this message to your entire list.  Time is urgent.

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