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Western Ranchers: The State has turned off all of our water including our wells!

Editor's Note: Bruce Topham was a guest on Govern America on July 6, 2013 to discuss the family's ongoing legal war over water rights. That interview can be heard by clicking here.


earth-3355931 640Brandan  Topham
Klamath Basin Crisis
May 13, 2018

We are not happy about this at all. Four years ago they started turning off our surface water. Two years ago they turned off our house water from a spring and now they are trying to turn off our irrigation wells. On the wells, they are going to have a fight (legal). The details of that will be skipped as that battle has just started.

What is more important is how blatant the Oregon Department of Water Resources Staff is about this. There was a meeting last Monday, where they were happy to explain how their computer model tells them that 140 wells that are closer than 1 mile to a river are denying the rivers over 100 cubic feet per second(cfs), but the wells that are one foot over a mile from the river are not hurting the river enough to bother. That right there should tell you there is a problem with what they are doing.

I assert the model has no correlation to the real world. How can I back that up you ask?

I can back that up several ways. The easiest way is looking at the river flow. There is a gauge station on the Lower Williamson River that has been there for 100 years. For those paying attention 100 years of data is a lot of data. Most of the irrigation wells have been drilled since 1950. That means we have river data for 32 years before the wells were drilled. In those 32 years the  average flow is 860cfs. Since 1951 the average flow is 1052cfs. That means since the wells have been drilled there is almost another 200 cfs in the rivers.

That does not sound like the wells are drying up the rivers. In fact, a person could argue that the wells are helping the river flows in a number of ways.

The above is very easy to look up and it is a fact, there is no arguing about computer models or which way the water flows under ground or if there are places where the water is confined or not.

The next easiest, but more expensive way to disprove the model is to do an aquifer test. It is a particular kind of test that can only be done certain times of the year and takes several days to a week. Once the test is done you can see exactly how the well affects other wells and if it affects any surface bodies. The test is agreed by other states to be the gold standard for figuring these things out. Several have been done in this area showing how those particular wells have zero correlation to the state’s computer models. The state refuses to acknowledge those tests or their results.

The third way to disprove it is to dig up a book that explains the algorithm (math equation) that the computer model is based on. The documents that go with the algorithm explain that it can only be used in particular places. Most notably, where the ground and earth under the ground are uniform for a vast area. In our area the ground is rarely the same for 100 feet. We have faults, ash deposits, lake beds and lava flows intermixed in very complex ways that are infinitely complex under the surface of the earth and are only superficially understood. There is no way that a computer model that is based on an algorithm requiring vast areas of uniformity can give you accurate results.

With this bad computer model a lot of ranches and smaller families are in trouble in the “Off Project” this summer. While the Feds are likely to give the project farmers millions of dollars it will be interesting to see what happens to those of us out here. Currently there are families trying to decide if their children get to keep their 4-H projects or not.  This will not break us, at least not this year, but it is causing problems and will hurt us financially, cause a lot of lost sleep and quality of life will suffer while we fight with the ODWR over something that is a political problem, not a real life problem.

The fact that this year is a drought has nothing to do with the fact they have shut off our wells. Every few years they keep changing the rules to shut off more stuff. This year they figured out how to shut off ~140 wells in addition to what they have been shutting off in the past for the Klamath Tribes. Last year they shut off every thing even with river flows well above average. Turning the wells off is now going to happen every year regardless of how much water is in the streams and rivers.

At some point the ODWR needs to get their teeth pulled. Not sure how to do that. If you have any thoughts they are welcome.

The Topham family has been raising specialized Salers cattle for more than 40 years. Their website is www.flyingtsalers.com.

Note: Bruce Topham was a guest on Govern America on July 6, 2013 to discuss the family's ongoing legal war over water rights. That interview can be heard by clicking here.

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