Every day is Earth Day on our ranch, that is part of the reason we do what we do. We take a holistic approach to management.
The Scott River flows through the middle of our ranch. Over the past several decades we have stabilized and fenced two miles of river and planted over 10 acres in mixed riparian vegetation. We then manage grazing to maintain the health of the zone and manage the weeds. The river has high quality salmon habitat and is frequented by bear, beaver, deer, ducks, elk and geese.
Also, we have installed fish screens at each of the four diversions we operate to prevent fish from entering the irrigation ditches. At each of the diversions we have also installed fish friendly rock weirs so that we no longer have to utilize push up dams.
When it comes to managing the soil, we test regularly to insure that the soil remains healthy and productive. Fields and pastures only receive soil amendments when they start showing depletion. As nutrients are needed, we utilize a variety of replenishments including manure from our cattle, horses and sheep, as well as naturally occurring commercial additives. Most of our pastures maintain productivity solely on the natural deposition of manure from our livestock as we rotate from field to field during the summer and harrow after the critters leave a field to evenly distribute the manure so that it can be incorporated into the soil.
We utilize a variety of methods for irrigation. Early in the season, we predominately flood irrigate, which insures the aquifer is charged for summer pumping. We continue to flood irrigate throughout the summer in specific fields that allow surface water to quickly percolate and help maintain a balance with pumping so that water does not have to be lifted as far with the pumps. Additionally, flood irrigation applies water that will slowly flow subsurface to the river, returning cooler to the river than the existing surface water, creating quality habitat for salmonid fingerlings. We have also installed a central pivot irrigation system on our hay fields to be more efficient and utilize wheellines on pastures that are higher in clay. In the winter, we continue to flood irrigate part of one field to provide additional habitat for the Canada Geese that migrate through each year. It is not uncommon to see 10’s of thousands of geese during the winter months.
The Endangered Species Act is in dire need of reform. Hopefully, the recent coverage by Fox News and Sean Hannity, of the Water Crisis in California’s Central Valley will bring about the attention needed to wake up Washington and bring about necessary change.
2824 South Highway 3
Etna, CA 96027
North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board
5550 Skylane Blvd, Suite A
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
RE: Comments Klamath River Total Maximum Daily Loads and Action Plan
Having worked on fish and water issues, plans and permits since 1992 I can honestly say this is the poorest compilation of relevant science, lacks clear objectives with purpose and has timelines that are unreasonable. There are too many individual areas of concern to address them all, so I shall limit this response to five general points.
First, the Klamath TMDL has gone from river specific to watershed. The Scott & Shasta already have working and approved TMDLs in place. Attributing additional limiting factors to these watersheds and incorporating them into the Klamath TMDL is simply wrong. We do not need another layer of permits, regulations and restrictions.
Second, the entire Klamath TMDL is unreasonable in nature. Per the North Coast Water Quality Control Boards own policy, you are to evaluate ALL beneficial uses and develop a plan than assesses and meets the needs of all uses, with out negatively impacting others. The Klamath TMDL clearly places its emphasis on cold water fisheries and ignores the impacts to agriculture and other beneficial uses.
Third, a full assessment on the economic impact of the Klamath TMDL was missing. In this case, it should be a cumulative economic impact, including the effect of all TMDLs and the Department of Fish and Games ITP. This will be the third and in some cases, the fourth or fifth permit or plan than private landowners will have to endure. Especially in the current economic situation, it must be noted that agriculture and timber can not sustain any more additional cost, whether it be in capital or in time.
Fourth, as written, the Klamath TMDL assumes that the dams will remain in place. However, the tone of the TMDL lends credence to removal. Therefore, the Klamath TMDL must also include the potential scenario of the dams being removed.
Fifth, the Boards additions to what qualifies as an acceptable Ranch Management Plan are unacceptable. Farmers and ranchers do not have the resources, or the time to meet the new criteria. The surveys, studies and monitoring described are unreasonable.
Overall, the Klamath TMDL presents the tone that the farmers, ranchers and timber managers are guilty before proven innocent. We are good stewards of the land and are benefiting the environment for both aquatic and terrestrial species. We have implemented conservation practices and are efficiently utilizing our resources in order to provide healthy and productive farms and ranches for future generations. Local agriculture and business cannot endure any more regulations, restrictions or limitations.
In conclusion, I have three suggestions.
1. The NCWQCB needs to remove all portions of the plan that involve any tributary that already has an approved TMDL in place.
2. The NCWQCB needs to sit down at the table with the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors and discuss in earnest, the entire Klamath TMDL, until the county is satisfied.
3. The NCWQCB must meet with the CDFG and come up with the desired ratio of spawners to out migrants that will indicate a healthy fishery.
The bottom line is that we all want a healthy fishery. Farmers and ranchers are experts at growing things. Tell us the ratio you want for the system we manage. We can directly affect what happens inland and we have over the past 15+ years, in a positive way. We cannot be held responsible for low numbers returning when we have spawned them and sent them out alive. Adding regulation upon permit upon restriction on the private land owner will not bring back more fish. Instead it will lead to more economic hardship, higher unemployment and more conversion of valuable habitat.
Thank you for the opportunity to present comments on this document.
Jeffrey N. Fowle
Rancher, Farmer, Agriculturist, Environmentalist
Adjudicated water users in Siskiyou County are facing difficult questions in trying to decide whether or not to participate in the Scott and Shasta Valley ITP Programs.
After the state listed the Coho Salmon, the CDFG convened the Shasta-Scott Recovery Team (SSRT) in late 2002. The SSRT advised the CDFG that it needed to work “with” the communities of the Scott and Shasta watersheds to develop a programmatic permitting process that would allow agricultural diverter to continue routine ranching and farming activities and “be in compliance with the Fish and Game Code and the CESA. The primary objective was to provide agricultural water users a simple and cost-effective means to obtain “necessary” permits and continue viable agricultural operations.
CDFG knew that they would not be able to handle the program on an individual basis and so an agreement was reached with the respective Resource Conservation Districts. Beginning in 2005, “outreach” was done to notify diverters that they could participate in the Program after they were established, by signing a “letter of intent.” These letters “allowed” for agricultural activities to continue while the Program was developed.
In the fall of 2008, the draft Program was presented for public comment. However, the document introduced a new layer of regulations, guidelines, restrictions and responsibilities that threaten the viability of the very agricultural operations it was designed to protect. Yes, an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) is designed to protect the landowner from take. Additionally, the CDFG introduced a new interpretation in the application of the 1602 permit, by requiring a permit in order to operate an agricultural diversion. Traditionally, 1602 permits were required for any disruption of the bed, bank or channel of a waterway and/or “substantial ” diversion of flow. The word substantial is crucial in understanding the “new” interpretation by CDFG. CDFG has publicly stated that one diversion is not likely to cause “substantial” change in flow, however, cumulatively, all the diversions in the system could. Therefore, they needed a Program that enrolled all diverters in order to try to gain control over adjudicated water rights that are currently managed by the Department of Water Resources (DWR) through court decree.
Many of the diverters in both watersheds have installed fish screens, measured headgates, fish by-pass structures and rock weirs, all measures to minimize and/or alleviate the potential of take. Many of these structures were installed by the CDFG for the purpose of protecting the salmon and eliminating take. So, now the questions begin…..
First, are diverters that have been proactive and installed fish friendly structures willing to sign up for a program of unknown cost that presents real threats to private property rights and adjudicated water rights?
Second, can the CDFG legally require a landowner to get a permit when that landowner has already implemented the necessary mitigation measures to avoid take. Especially when those mitigation measures were approved and installed by the CDFG.
Third, can the CDFG legally require a landowner to get a permit for an activity that is legal and decreed by a court.
Fourth, how many landowners are going to be tempted to call it quits?
The agricultural producers in both the Scott and Shasta Valleys have endured compromise after compromise and at some point, a line is drawn. We’ve seen an increase in water fees, the implementation of two TMDL’s, the Klamath TMDL is soon to follow. The California Air Resources Board is implementing detrimental diesel regulations. The Environmental Protection Agency is developing new regulations for spraying. The Williamson Act is continually on the chopping block. Production costs have long since passed reasonableness compared to product market value. At what point does the agricultural community say enough is enough?