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Water, Salmon, The Scott River…The Real Story

The following is a letter that was written to California Governor, Jerry Brown, from a radical, environmental antagonist who, despite knowing the truth, felt the need to intentionally lie, spread misinformation and attempt to bring unwarranted regulatory hardship upon the agricultural community in the Scott River Watershed.

I have long tried to be understanding of opposing points of view. However, the view points were based on honesty and integrity. Mr. Pace’s letter is deliberately dishonest and lacks any aspect of integrity. It is letters such as this that continue to divide communities and cause needless ill will, for the benefit of individual attention…not the benefit of the environment or the community.

My corrections to the misinformation are in bold.

 

October 25, 2012

Governor Jerry Brown

Via Web Form on Governor Brown’s Web Site

http://govnews.ca.gov/

Dear Governor Brown,

Your intervention is needed immediately to prevent a tragedy in the Scott River Valley. A large number of Chinook Salmon are in the Scott River waiting to get to their spawning grounds. However, because the Farmers Ditch is running full at an estimated 6-8 cubic feet per second 10 full days after irrigation was supposed to end under the Scott River Adjudication,the Scott River is dewatered and disconnected in the area below the Farmer’s Ditch is diverting the full flow of Scott River. 

The Farmers Ditch was dry from August 19 through October 23. Prior to the 19th of August, the California Department of Fish and Game asked if we would close our headgate at the fish screen, to hold water in the first 200 yards of our ditch to provide habitat for salmonid fingerlings, due to the mainstem Scott River going sub-surface several yards below our point of diversion. We cooperated and shut our ditch off. Until there is 20+ cfs above our point of diversion, the river will not connect. The water right is for 36 cfs , a full ditch. we reopened our headgate on the afternoon of October 23rd to utilize our livestock water right, as cows are returning from the mountains and need water to drink. What Mr. Pace failed to mention, was that the staff gauge at the headgate, where he trespassed on private property to take several of his pictures, read 6.8 cfs, hardly a “full ditch.” It is now October 30th, five days after opening the headgate, and the water has yet to reach the last two users on the ditch. This is due to it being dry for over three months. We are within our adjudicated right and NO irrigation is taking place.

Unless this ditch is turned down or off soon, Chinook salmon will not be able to spawn in the Upper Scott River, the east Fork, the South Fork, Sugar Creek, Wildcat Creek and several other tributaries. Spawning and production fro the largest run in recent history will be lost. The benefit of millions of dollars the state and federal government has spent restoring habitat above the Farmer’s Ditch will be rendered useless and ineffective. This is something you can and should stop.

This stretch of the river will connect once we have temperatures below 30 degrees for at least four days, in order to “shut down” the water uptake from our unmanaged forests. This has been the case for the past 50+ years. As stated before, until the trees shut down, or until we receive substantial rainfall, the river will not connect below our point of diversion. This is an area that historically was dredged for gold and the river goes subsurface. Also, Sugar Creek enters the Scott River below the Farmers Ditch. It is not even flowing with enough volume to reach the river. This is natural.

Irrigators along the Farmers Ditch are using the pretext of a stock-watering right to continue irrigation far beyond the legal irrigation season. I have pictures showing that some of the fields being irrigated do not even have livestock in them. I also have pictures of the full ditch and the dewatered river below this diversion. I am going to send those to the press this morning along with a copy of this message to you. If you will supply me with an e-mail address that will get noticed, I’ll send those pictures to you too.

The two ranches, of the ten that have a water right on the Farmers Ditch, that have green grass, began pumping water from below the ditch, up the hill to irrigate. The other eight are dry and have no forage. Mr. Pace is aware of this ability and is deliberately lying…despicable. In fact, it is was because of the lack of ditch water that the two ranches installed pipe from below the ditch in order to deliver water to fields for irrigation when the ditch ran dry. Mr. Pace was fully aware of both of these projects occurring, the first over five years ago. 

For years I and others have been asking your Department of Water Resources, your Department of Fish & Game and the State Water Resources Control Board which you appoint to address this abusive and intentional lawbreaking. A few years ago, I presented a PowerPoint to the SWRCB which showed illegal, out of season irrigation being done from this very ditch.

Once again, Mr. Pace’s allegations are fallacious and lack truth and basis….period.  The water right holders on the Farmers Ditch have not irrigated past October 15th. In fact, there have only been two years out of the past twelve that we have actually had enough water in the ditch to irrigate later than September 10th.

A few years ago this ditch was turned on in the Spring in a manner that dewatered the Scott River below the diversion. Several hundred thousand Salmon and Steelhead died as a result, including listed Coho Salmon. While state officials knew about this and referred the ditch manager to the DA, only a slap on the wrist resulted and the matter was not reported to or by the press. In this way, state officials and the DA countenanced lawbreaking and thereby encouraged that lawbreaking – and the dewatering of the river – to continue.

The Farmers Ditch has a year-round water right and has always cooperated with the CDFG to benefit salmonids. Once again, Mr. Pace is intentionally lying….period. There have been several years when our ditch has cooperated with the CDFG to maintain habitat in our ditch for salmon, to prevent loss. The alleged accusation by Mr. Pace is far-fetched at best. No communication from any state agency was ever received regarding any such instance. The one occasion that we are aware of, when a couple of salmon were stranded and died, occurred when the CDFG failed to trap survivors when the river was drying up, due to a holiday. It was because of the “holiday” that the biologists did not trap the fish and in that time period the river went subsurface and the fish died.

In spite of numerous attempts over the past ten years to get responsible officials to do their sworn duties in order to stop the illegal irrigation and illegal use of this ditch in violation of several Water and Fish & Game Codes, these officials have done nothing.That is why I am contacting you in hopes that you will take action to help the Scott River Salmon and all the other water users who suffer bad publicity because of the illegal actions of this one irrigation district or private group of irrigators, i.e. those who control the Farmers Ditch in the Scott River Basin.

Ironically, due to the voluntary efforts of the local natural resource stewards, despite the antagonists best efforts, we are having a record run of salmon this year. I for one am very excited that we have the returns that we are seeing…I think it is a great thing…and shows that salmon are resilient, follow ocean conditions and the existing habitat conditions allowed for excellent escapement. We do not need more interference from so called “environmentalists” nor regulation from state and federal agencies. We do need to accept and allow mother nature to run her course.

Please, please take action quick for the Salmon and the People.

Via Web Form

Felice Pace

In conclusion, no “illegal irrigation” is or has taken place. The Scott River is snow-fed. Currently, with the lack of management in our forests, due to the efforts of Mr. Pace and the organizations he represents and works with, we will continue to see lower flows, even in average water years. Plain and simple, our evapotranspiration rates are out of balance and we are well beyond optimum tree density. The farmers and ranchers in the Scott River Watershed have been very proactive in habitat enhancement and voluntarily providing water and habitat for the benefit of salmonids. Mr. Pace and the others who continue to slander the efforts of the true natural resource stewards only seek to divide communities and in the end, harm that which they claim to be “fighting” for.

Proposition 37, Labeling Lemon

Proposition 37 is plain and simply a bad law….for multiple reasons.

  1. Prop 37 would require labeling for non-harmful ingredients.
  2. Prop 37 does not require ALL products to labeled.
  3. Prop 37 is a California-only regulation on food.
  4. Prop 37 provides loopholes for imports to evade the labeling requirement.
  5. Prop 37 would increase food costs in California by over $400 per year.
  6. Prop 37 would create additional bureaucracy and cost tax payers millions.
  7. Prop 37 would open the door to frivolous lawsuits.
  8. Any proposed regulation, that will have such overreaching impact, should go through legislative and economic analysis, not through the proposition venue.

I fully support the consumer’s right to know if anything harmful is in a product that they might buy. If a product is harmful, it should be labeled, but directed from the FDA, not the state.

Labels informing consumers of the ingredients should be voluntary. There is already an organic label to identify non-GE products.

If there is strong support to identify ingredients in non-organic foods, I would encourage someone to take advantage and create a niche label. It would seem to me, to be a wonderful opportunity.

I support a NO vote on Proposition 37.

The USDA and Meatless Monday

Yesterday, while the Verizon towers were down in Siskiyou County, a newsletter from within the USDA, Greening Headquarters Update, was released and had a suggestion to implement the Meatless Monday Initiative within the agency. There was a quick uprising among many in the agricultural community, within the social media world. By 1:07 in the afternoon, the USDA retracted the statement in the newsletter as released in The New York Times. Now, most folks would think “Excellent, we accomplished our objective,” and move on. However, this is not the case with some, as I continue to see several rant on and now I understand several industry organizations are considering a ‘unified response’ to the matter…yes…after it has been retracted and the USDA’s position clarified.

To those who are still ‘worked up’ over this, I respectfully ask you to stop for a minute and take a deep breath. Allow the emotions to settle down and let’s take an objective look at what further actions, if any should be taken.

First, I am a beef producer and admittedly was not a big fan of the Meatless Monday Initiative. However, after taking some time to look at things objectively, I completely support the idea of encouraging folks to eat more fruits and vegetables, most do not eat enough. We should all be supportive of people eating better balanced meals that include all the food groups.

Second, let’s take a look in the mirror. What does it look like to our customers when agriculture is constantly ‘on the fight,’ ‘whining,’ and complaining on a daily basis? Folks, certainly we face challenges, but think about all we have to be thankful for. We should spend some more time showing gratitude for positives.

Third, I agree with a dear and respected friend who said, “I just don’t think people in Ag stop to think for a minute how bad they look every time I see the hunk of meat Monday’s, etc. it’s just as adversarial to me as the anti-meat campaigns.” We should be celebrating that people are now posting and sharing recipes of all kinds through a plethora of blogs and social media platforms. What could be better than more people taking the time to return to the kitchen and actual start cooking again? Think about it. If they start cooking vegetable dishes, they will most certainly expand to include meat. This is a positive, not a negative, in my humble opinion.

Fourth, to those considering continuing to beat the proverbial ‘dead horse,’ I offer the following suggestion. Be gracious to the USDA for retracting the statement and clarify their position. Recognize that the USDA does not just represent the 2% of the country that produces food, but also 100% of the customers. Politely share the current information that refutes the UN study and close with a smile and a thank you.

In my humble opinion, this continued negativity, does not promote healthy relationships with customers and will only serve to hinder the efforts of the USFRA and other organizations that are working so diligently and sincerely to encourage dialogue. Celebrate. Be thankful. Be Happy. Stay positive.

** After receiving a number of messages from those in the ‘Hunk of Meat Monday’ crowd, I want to be clear about a couple of things. First, I support your endeavor and believe it has been very successful and informative. Second, hindsight is always 20/20, consider this….what if  ‘Hunk of Meat Monday’ had been ‘Satisfying Steak Saturday,’ or ‘Fabulous Meat Friday.’ Rather than coming across to some as being ‘combative’ or ‘un-supportive’ of the idea of eating more fruits and vegetables, it may have been even more successful, promoting higher quality protein later in the week. What if ‘Hunk of Meat’ Monday had been first and ‘Meatless Monday’ had been launched after? Would we have considered that to be combative? Finally, while the premise behind ‘Meatless Monday’ in regards to health and the environment is ‘off base,’ in my humble opinion, the objective of getting people to eat more fruits and vegetables and think balance in diets is one that I do support. Please, realize that I am not trying to promote any single way of doing things…merely offering suggestions to think about and perhaps help shape a more positive effort on another issue in the future. Keep up the great work!

The 25th Of May

It is the 25th of May

And we are all eagerly waiting to begin cutting hay.

The thermometer says it is 34

As I return soaking wet, from changing water, carrying firewood in the door.

I can see the snow falling in hills across the way,

Time to reevaluate my plans for the day.

It is hard to believe I can see my breath in the air

So I settle down next to the fire, coffee in hand, in my big leather chair.

Siskiyou County Farm Bureau vs California Department of Fish and Game (Update)

From Left to Right: Jim Wilson (President SOSS), Clifford Munson (President SCCA), Mark Baird (Vice Chair POW), Gail Jenner (President SCCW), Rex Houghton (President SCFB), Mario Burch (2nd VP SCFB)

TRIAL IN SISKIYOU COUNTY FARM BUREAU WATER RIGHTS SUIT RESUMES MAY 29

 

Trial is scheduled to resume May 29 in a lawsuit filed by Siskiyou County Farm Bureau to challenge the California Department of Fish and Game’s new interpretation of a 51-year-old law. The first week of trial included testimony from farmers and ranchers who said DFG actions threaten farmers’ ability to provide water to their crops.

The case centers on a new DFG interpretation of Section 1602 of the California Fish and Game Code.  This section requires individuals to notify and potentially obtain a Lake and Streambed Alteration Agreement from DFG before conducting certain activities that alter a streambed. Since Section 1602 became law in 1961, DFG has required such permits for activities including gravel mining, the annual construction of push-up dams, installation of new headgates and other construction projects that physically alter streambeds.

But in 2010, DFG began enforcing a fundamental change in how the statute was applied, when it informed farmers in the Scott and Shasta river watersheds that they would be required to obtain streambed alteration agreements simply to exercise their longstanding water rights by opening an existing headgate or activating an existing pump in order to irrigate their crops. Water rights are already managed by the courts and a separate state agency, the State Water Resources Control Board. This new interpretation would require water users to obtain a permit from DFG to exercise existing water rights.

Siskiyou County Farm Bureau members Jim Morris, Jeff Fowle and Joe Hurlimann testified during the first week of trial, describing the impacts the new layer of requirements would have on their ability to irrigate their crops.

“It was important for our farmers and ranchers to provide real-world examples of how the new interpretation is affecting them,” Siskiyou County Farm Bureau President Rex Houghton said. “The new requirements jeopardize both water rights and property rights for farmers and ranchers, creating a situation with a constant threat of enforcement action, additional burdensome fees and the time and expense of obtaining the annual permits.”

Houghton noted that farmers and ranchers along the two rivers have taken a number of voluntary actions to benefit salmon, and said DFG already has many other ways to assure protection of the fish.

The majority of the Siskiyou County Farm Bureau case was presented to the judge during the first week of trial. Siskiyou County Farm Bureau will finish its case and DFG will present its case following the current recess in the trial.

“The Siskiyou County Farm Bureau would like to thank the local farmers and ranchers, as well as county Farm Bureaus throughout the state for their support,” Houghton said. “

In support of the action taken by Siskiyou County Farm Bureau, a number of local organizations, in addition to individual ranchers and farmers, have come forward with donations.

Jim Wilson, a representative of Save Our Scott and Shasta (S0SS), sent $7000 and a statement to the Farm Bureau:  “Due to inactivity (by this organization) in the ongoing fight for water rights, we propose that SOSS cease its current operations and transfer the remaining funds in our treasury to the Siskiyou County Farm Bureau, to assist in the lawsuit challenging the California Fish and Game’s new interpretation of 1602 permits. We feel the lawsuit is consistent with SOSS’s original mission statement.”

Gail Jenner, President of Siskiyou County CattleWomen, presented Rex Houghton with a $5000 donation. “We are committed to assisting our local Farm Bureau in this fight, which is a fight to preserve our adjudicated water rights.  Though SCCW’s primary purpose is to provide scholarships and promote beef, without the right to use water as approved and provided for by the court, there is no agriculture.  Little do most consumers realize that the backbone of this country, which is agriculture, is cracking under the weight of over-reaching regulations, increased fees and delays, and intimidation by state and federal agencies, in addition to rising costs and expenses.”

Jenner added, “We hope anyone who cares about agriculture or protecting individual rights will step forward. Our government has already imposed regulations and permitting processes aplenty.”

According to Cliff Munson, Siskiyou County Cattlemen’s President, “Siskiyou County Cattlemen applaud the efforts put forth by the Farm Bureau and the other organizations in Siskiyou County that wholeheartedly support the Farm Bureau lawsuit. Our legislature passes bills, and three or four individuals create a set of regulations, and those regulations are then interpreted by whoever is in charge of our various state agencies. We have reached a point where regulation and interpretation is destroying our way of life.”  The cattlemen have also made a $5000 donation.

Munson continued, “We had a revolution in this country, which was settled in 1776, but when people start going hungry because of the lack of food, we will probably have another. It is great to see the Siskiyou County Farm Bureau, the Protect Our Water Organization, Save our Scott and Shasta, the Siskiyou County CattleWomen, and the Cattlemen all join together to help this cause. ”

Mark Baird, of Protect Our Water (POW), also joined in with a donation. “POW supports the Farm Bureau wholeheartedly. We will stand with you ‘til the bitter end. Water rights are integral to agriculture and many of these rights go back more than a hundred years. That the government can step in and impose its own authority when these rights have been adjudicated by the court, is outrageous. It’s time we take a real stand. Enough is enough.”

Mario Burch, 2nd Vice President for Siskiyou County Farm Bureau said. “This is a regulation we must defeat and a case we must win. It’s good to see the various groups unified in support of, and with us in our fight against misused government regulation.”

“Siskiyou County Farm Bureau thanks each of the donors for their contributions,” Houghton said . “We look forward to getting back into the courtroom for the conclusion of the trial and the judge’s ruling on the new interpretation of Section 1602.”

The Siskiyou County Farm Bureau is a voluntary membership organization that works to protect and promote agricultural interests through Siskiyou County and to protect and improve the availability of food and fiber through responsible stewardship of resources.

Courtesy Jodi Burch, Executive Director, Siskiyou County Farm Bureau

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