KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. – A new security fence, video cameras and motion detectors have taken the place of federal police in guarding the headgates of the Klamath Reclamation Project irrigation system.
The security system was completed last week around the project, a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation site at the center of farmers' protests last summer over restrictions on irrigation water to conserve water for threatened and endangered fish, bureau spokesman Dave Jones said Monday.
Federal police were brought in after farmers pried open the headgates to an irrigation canal several times and siphoned off water.
The $90,000 security system went up after protesters met with authorities following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and agreed to scale back activities to allow the federal government to concentrate on fighting terrorism.
The bureau spent about $750,000 guarding the headgates from July 14 through Sept. 26, when federal police left the site.
Contracted security guards will remain through mid-January, when a final decision will be made on whether to rely solely on the fence, cameras and motion detectors to protect the headgates, Jones said. He said he was not aware of any breaches of the security system.
Jones also said water restrictions might not be necessary this year.
"The snowpack building up in the Siskiyous and the area there gives us every hope this will not be another contentious year, that we have enough water to meet both the environmental obligations we have as well as our long-standing relations with the farmers who depend on that water," Jones said.
Because of last winter's drought, there was not enough water to supply farmers after meeting Endangered Species Act requirements to protect endangered suckerfish in Upper Klamath Lake, the project's primary reservoir, and threatened coho salmon in the Klamath River.