Scott Valley – 2014 is an extraordinary year. We are experiencing an extreme drought and have had a record number of Coho Salmon spawn in our system. Due to drought conditions, the spawning occurred in the main stem of the Scott River, since there was not enough fall and winter runoff for the salmon to reach the systems tributaries. Record low snow pack, ranging from 4% – 12% of average, has resulted in extremely diminished surface flows, which are dropping at a rate never seen before. To further complicate the situation, salmon from other systems spawned in the Scott River, all the way into late March.
In an effort to try and keep sufficient flows in the main stem, to allow the late spawning eggs to emerge, allow for the 1+ salmon to migrate to the Klamath and the fry to migrate into the tributaries, members of the Farmer’s Ditch Company have put their surface right back in the Scott River to help augment flows. This was a voluntary and collaborative effort between the farmers, the Scott River Water Trust and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“We recognize the importance of having as many salmon survive this extraordinary year, not only for our system, but others throughout California, where the salmon were not able to enter due to lack of precipitation and resulting low flows,” said Gareth Plank.
The collaboration between the farmers, the Trust and the Department will keep sufficient flows through a critical reach of the Scott River, for a longer period of time, allowing for natural migration and reduce the need for fish trapping and relocation. Additionally, it will keep eggs wet, in reds from the late spring, to hopefully allow for more hatching and live fry.
The Scott River had over 3000 coho salmon spawn this year, resulting in a potential of 4 million fry.
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
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
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.
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
I have had several inquiries regarding the ongoing lawsuit between Siskiyou County Farm Bureau and the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG). As it is an ongoing lawsuit I am limited to what can be shared. However, since the hearings have begun, I am now able to share some background. Read more…
Seven days ago I returned home from attending the NASCAR race in Fontana CA. I was invited by the Furniture Row Racing team to meet with their owner, driver and team to discuss the future plans of the Farm American car and an interactive, educational, traveling van that will be at all of the NASCAR races as well as stop at various locations during off weeks, educating the public about American Agriculture and promoting local farmers and ranchers and their food at each of the venues. I will talk about this more in another post.
Upon returning home, late in the afternoon, the ranch looked to be in good shape. The cattle and horses were all in their respective pastures and looked to be content. The following morning I took a quick drive on the ATV and checked all the critters out before heading to a meeting in Yreka. They looked healthy and happy. I returned that night well after dark for chores. When I awoke on Wednesday morning and glanced out on the fields, I noticed that there was only one field with cows in it, there should have been three, and we were short a few to boot. I also noticed that our stud horse was not in his pasture, but up the lane next to the mares and foals. This was not a good start to the day.
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?