In West: Water Already Critical as Summer Just Beginning

June 1, 2021

The last exceptional drought in California was January, 2017, on the tail end of a multi-year drought. It was considered the worst in parts of the state in 450 years.

California’s Sierra snowpack typically supplies about one-third of the state’s water once it melts later in spring and summer, recharging the state’s reservoirs.

In 2021, a lack of spring snow and warm weather left the snowpack virtually gone by late May, about two months earlier than average, according to Peter Gleick, water and climate scientist at the Pacific Institute.

According to the Sacramento Bee, the early-vanishing snowpack amounted to about 685,000 acre-feet of water that didn’t replenish California’s reservoirs, enough to supply up to 1.2 million households for a year.

That’s left some of the state’s reservoirs very low for late spring, and dropping.

With increased evaporation in the summer and the need to draw down some reservoirs to preserve fish populations in rivers, these levels will continue to inch lower over the next several months. 

Sacramento Bee:

In the summer of 2001, local farmers and other activists armed with saws and blowtorches breached a chain-link fence and opened the headgates of a federal canal that supplies farmland in Oregon and far Northern California.

Local farmer Grant Knoll was among the activists there that year. The protesters forced the gates open three times but were eventually blocked by U.S. marshals. Now, with a drought just as severe as two decades ago — and with farmers’ water again cut off — he’s prepared to fight again. 

This spring, he and another farmer, Dan Nielsen, bought the property next to the headgates in Klamath Falls, Ore. They erected a red and white tent surrounded by American flags and protest signs, and they’re holding regular gatherings. And they’re working with a group with close ties to anti-government activist Ammon Bundy.

Knoll was blunt when asked about the possibility of activists storming the headgates this time around.

“I don’t see why not,” Knoll told The Sacramento Bee. “The federal government’s not following the law. They’re breaking the law continuously. And so we’re at a point where, you know, they’re abusing their power. So how do you stop the federal government when they’re abusing their power?”

Southern Oregon Public Radio:

Now, two Klamath Project irrigators with ties to radical activist Ammon Bundy have purchased private property located next to the headgates of the “A” Canal in Klamath Falls, which would normally deliver water to area farms. And along with local members of the Oregon chapter of People’s Rights, a group founded by Bundy in 2020, they’ve set up an information center and gathering place to talk to the public about the brewing water crisis in the Klamath Basin.

On May 12, as the ongoing drought led to low water levels in Upper Klamath Lake, federal managers shut off water from the lake that irrigators use for watering crops and livestock. The move was made to protect two federally-protected fish species that the Klamath Tribes consider integral to their cultural heritage and survival during the worst recorded drought in Klamath Basin history.

In April, Dan Nielsen and Grant Knoll jointly bought several privately-owned lots adjoining the “A” Canal for a total price of $30,000, according to a Klamath County deed of sale. Both men are landowners and Project irrigators. Knoll is also a member of the Klamath Irrigation District board of directors, which oversees a majority of Klamath Project land.

A large red and white canvas tent was set up on the property on May 14, where people are painting signs and posting them along the asphalt path along Nevada St. above the property, with messages such as “Ammon Bundy coming soon” and “Tell Pharaoh let our water feed the Earth.”

Nielsen hosted a large $25-a-plate private dinner for Ammon Bundy in Klamath Falls last summer. Nielsen had also met Bundy at a similar event in Siskiyou County in 2018. Knoll has also met Bundy.

Bundy led an armed group to occupy the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Burns, Oregon in 2016. He was later acquitted on charges related to the 41-day standoff with federal authorities. The standoff resulted in one death; LaVoy Finicum, who was among those occupying the refuge. Finicum was killed by law enforcement during an attempted arrest.

Bundy also participated in an armed standoff with federal agents in Nevada in 2013 over his father Cliven Bundy’s refusal to pay fees for grazing his cattle on federal land.

Ammon Bundy has recently announced plans to run for governor of Idaho in 2022, even though he has been temporarily barred from the Idaho Statehouse building after trespassing the property.

Dan Nielsen said he is in regular contact with Bundy.

“We talk to him regularly,” he told JPR.

Below, NBC News report on drought in wider west:

4 Responses to “In West: Water Already Critical as Summer Just Beginning”

  1. Anthony William O'brien Says:

    A decade ago talk of future mega droughts was considered extreme alarmism. And now the main stream media is using the term for the here and now.

    Fifteen years ago I was dismissed as a doomer but things are already changing very much faster than I expected (except for Arctic sea ice, I thought we would have hit a zero minimum before now).

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      Watch out for the different metrics for “sea ice coverage”. The NSIDC uses ≥15% sea ice to mark a stretch of ocean as being “covered”. This 15% amount matters to polar bears, of course, but doesn’t mean much in terms of albedo compared to solid ice cover and is not really useful in keeping heat from flowing up from the ocean into the arctic atmosphere.

  2. jimbills Says:

    This is looking like it’s going to be a major story this year.

    Here’s some more news today, another cyber-attack, this time on the meat industry:

    • greenman3610 Says:

      thanks for the links.
      the Ammon Bundy/Vanilla Isis link is infuriating, particularly this quote:

      “Who cares if there is violence? At least something will be worked out,” Mr. Bundy said in an interview, ridiculing those not prepared to fight for the nation’s food supply. “‘Oh, we don’t want violence, we’ll just starve to death.’ Heaven forbid we talk about violence.”

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