Embattled farmers fighting for water in Oregon's drought-stricken Klamath River Basin have received some unexpected support.
A convoy of activists arrived in Klamath Falls to protest the government's decision to shut down irrigation to the region's farmers in order to preserve water for endangered fish.
A dozen trucks carrying money, replacement seed and other supplies for the struggling farmers descended upon the town Monday to participate in Tuesday's parade and rally.
Hailing from small towns like St. Regis, Mont., and Kellog, Idaho, the "Convoy of Tears" was in Klamath Falls not just to support the farmers, but to protest what they say are abuses of the Endangered Species Act that put the preservation of sucker fish and coho salmon ahead of the interests of farmers being parched into bankruptcy.
Competing demands for water have been building for a decade in the Klamath Basin, but they came to a head this year when drought cut water available for a federal irrigation system that supplies the water for about half the farmland in the Klamath Basin, along the Oregon-California border.
Based on federal reports on the needs of endangered suckers in Upper Klamath Lake and threatened coho salmon in the Klamath River, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation shut off irrigation to 90 percent of the 220,000 acres of farmland serviced by the irrigation system.
In July, Interior Secretary Gale Norton authorized the release of 70,000-acre feet of water to farmers. But that water is due to run out Thursday, which has brought demonstrations to a near fever pitch.
"It starts with property," said one farmer. "If you don't have the rights to use your property ... you don't have freedom," he said.
A giant shovel, bucket, and other farming symbols were carried along in the parade. But as the procession wound its way through Klamath Falls, some farmers feared the protesters were "bringing their own agendas" that had little to do with water.
One resident said the "anti-government extremists" who have come to town won't solve the problem.
"Bashing the government, environmentalists and Native Americans won't make more water," he said.
Steve Kandra, a leading farmer in the fight to get water, said Monday that the farmers' only goal is to secure water for their crops.
"When you get a bunch of people together, anything could happen," Kandra said. "We want to make sure people stay focused on what the prize is."
Organizers of Tuesday's events sought to restore irrigation for the farmers and to change the Endangered Species Act, under which the endangered fish were given priority for water access.
Farmers had pursued a failed lawsuit, with Kandra as lead plaintiff, to overturn the decision to curtail irrigation.
Fox News' William La Jeunesse and the Associated Press contributed to this report.