I'm setting up this blog to follow the progress of my feature-length documentary Battle for the Klamath, about the ongoing fight between small farmers and the Bush Administration on one side and Indian tribes, commercial fishermen and environmentalists on the other, over endangered salmon and water rights in southern Oregon and Northern California.
The 59 minute documentary is currently in "fine cut" form and is being submitted to film festivals. A recent grant from the Pacific Pioneer Fund will help with a sound mix and color correction. Additional funds are sought for marketing and distribution.
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Here's the synopsis of the film:
The Klamath River, snaking through southern Oregon and northern California through some of the most pristine wilderness remaining in the west, is the focus of an intense battle over fish, water and conflicting ways of life, between upstream farmers and the Bush Administration on one side, and downstream Indian tribes, commercial fishermen and environmentalists on the other.
In 2001, a bitter conflict erupted over the use of the limited supply of water that flows down the Klamath River, a major spawning basin for endangered Coho salmon. The farmers supply of water was ordered cut and the water went downriver to help the salmon and the Indian tribes.
Then, in 2002, after Karl Rove and the Bush Administration intervened, the upstream farmers received the available water for their crops and the downstream communities suffered the worst fish die-off in U.S. history, when over 30,000 salmon died in the lower portion of the Klamath River as they attempted to swim upriver to spawn. Many experts believe the cause of the massive fish kill was the lack of water flow that is controlled by the United States Bureau of Reclamation at the headwaters of the river in Oregon. Too little water released upriver causes low level and warmer water conditions that prove hazardous to spawning salmon.
When salmon are wiped out in such large numbers downstream there is a major impact on the regional Indian tribes, the Yurok, Hupa and Kurok, who depend on the salmon fisheries as a source of food and income. Likewise, commercial fishermen along the coast are devastated and local economies impacted by the steady decline of the salmon.
Yet that water is also promised to the small farmers in the Klamath Valley in Oregon, who depend on it to irrigate their crops. Many of these farmers are descendants of homesteading veterans of World War One who were promised the land and water to farm their crops forever.
Battle for the Klamath examines why a regional fight over water and fish in 2001 and 2002 caused the Bush Administration and its political Svengali, Karl Rove, to intervene in determining how much water flows down an obscure western river, and how that exertion of political influence caused a veteran government fisheries biologist to file a whistleblower complaint against his own agency because he feared the endangered salmon faced extinction. The hour long documentary also listens to tribal fishermen, fisheries biologists and small farmers as they explain how their way of life is threatened by too much demand for too little water a problem that more and more communities will face in the future.