From the July 2001 Idaho Observer:

Property rights activists remind Americans of the true purpose of Independence Day celebrations

First Jarbidge, then K-Falls: July 4 is once again the day where freedom is performed not pretended

Last May 7 an estimated 23,000 people formed a “Bucket Brigade which passed buckets of water into an irrigation ditch that was dry because the federal government decided that allowing 90 percent of the famers and ranchers in the Klamath Basin to water their crops would compromise the habitat of the suckerfish. Aside from the fact there is no scientific data to support the threatened status of the suckerfish or the likelihood that irrigation would harm the bottom feeder's habitat, area residents are rightly insulted that the feds are more concerned about suckerfish than the people of Klamath Basin. Sometime the evening of Sunday, July 1, the headgate was opened and water ran for approximately eight hours before the Bureau Reclamation closed it off. On Monday evening, the headgate was opened again delivering water to the area's some 1,400 farms and ranches. The Bureau closed the gate again and ordered local law enforcement to guard the gate. Klamath County Sheriff Tim Evinger indicated that the gate was not his responsibility. Then, on July 4, in what was probably the most poignant Independence Day celebration in the nation this year, some 300 people gathered to open the gate and vowed to keep it open, suckerfish and federal mandates be damned.

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. -- The headgates are open again. This time by a calm but persistent group of local farmers, ranchers and supporters.... In the heat of the afternoon, today, Independence Day, 2001.

A group of about 300 met peacefully, yet purposefully today at the head gates to the Klamath Project. After gaining entrance to a fenced area where the gates are located, about half of the group crossed in, subjecting themselves to possible arrest for trespassing. Having brought the proper tools, several members of the group then proceeded to liberate the locking mechanism, all the time being cheered by the group both inside and outside the gate. Then at least 20 people, representing a cross section of the basin, helped to turn the long steel rod, that opens the gate. All the other peaceful protesters cheered and sang.

A moment of concern for the protesters occurred when a couple Klamath Falls Police Department squad cars arrived, however they stayed on the other side of the street and did not interfere. Klamath County Sheriff Tim Evinger also showed up. When asked, he said he was just here to monitor the water level in the canal, nothing more. As a symbolic action only one of the six gates were opened, creating no danger of any flooding.

“If the Bureau of Reclamation closes it, we will come and open it again,” one member of the group said. “It's our water, it was given to us by the government, then we paid for it, worked for it, we have the right to get it back.”

Another said: “Today I stood with my fellow Americans, with flags flying, patriotic songs in our hearts.. in our souls, we locked arms, we made our statement. Even if the gates are closed already, it still was truly one of the high points of my life, to show our strength, our resolve, together on the 4th of July!

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