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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.

Last Child On The Farm (Guest Post)

Whenever I pass a freshly plowed field it gives me the same thrill as an unopened book–full of potential, surprise, and pleasure. And just like that book beckons me to peek beneath its cover, the sight of that rich, dark earth ready for planting beckons me to curl my feet into the freshly tilled layers and feel its coolness between my toes.

My connection to farming is a gift I cherish from my childhood spent on a dairy surrounded by Holstein dairy cows, an assortment of dogs, cats, hamsters and the occasional jack-rabbit my father found orphaned while cutting alfalfa. For me, there was no more peaceful place on the planet than lying on a bale of freshly bound hay, inhaling the heady aroma of alfalfa, while staring up at a sky so blue it made my eyes squint.

One of my favorite places in the dead of summer was the peach orchard. I remember that first peach of the season. How my fingers sunk into the soft flesh when I plucked it from the branch. With the first bite, peach juice made race tracks down my arm. Nothing ever tasted as good. Like a piece of heaven to my taste buds.

We didn’t have much, but neither did anyone else we knew. I wore hand-me-downs. We canned most of our fruits and vegetables. Fresh, clean air and the farm provided a plentiful playground. I scampered through fields and hay barns. I cuddled newborn kittens with their eyes sealed shut. I roamed sweltering orchards while my mother picked peaches.

At our house, milk didn’t just materialize from the store. It came from the milk tank after the cows were herded to the milking parlor, washed, milked and turned back to the pasture. Milk came from an abundance of hard work before it arrived at our table.

Perhaps I view my childhood through rose-colored glasses. And certainly kids raised in urban areas had experiences I didn’t, but the difference is, back then the majority of kids who didn’t live on farms had family or friends who did, and they had the opportunity to visit them. Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, makes this same comment in his book. He said that baby boomers may be the last generation of Americans to share an intimate and familial attachment to the land and water.

My parents sold the dairy when I was ten, but farming stayed with me. My husband and I bought land, planted an orchard from the ground up and currently grow table olives. We raised our children on a farm, and I’ve worked as a freelance photojournalist specializing in agriculture for the past 15 years.

Every day I become more aware of the limited exposure children have to farming. Statistics show the U.S. farm population is dwindling, and 40 percent of the farmers in this country are 55 or older. I see this every day when I’m interviewing farmers, and I wonder who will raise our food when they’re gone? What happens if today’s youth is not inspired to farm?

Ultimately, the answer begins and ends with parents. Our children need to be inspired to farm. They need hands-on time with agriculture. They need to see, touch, taste, smell and hear farming in all its noisy, dirty, sweaty, smelly glory. Along with the hundreds of thousands of college graduates going into medicine, law and business, we need equal numbers of agriculture graduates ready, willing and eager to farm.

I believe the best way to achieve this is by providing children, at a young age, with frequent exposure to farming. Children need to know how food is produced, and they need to read books with agriculture themes. Last Child in the Woods lists 100 actions parents can take to get children into nature. One of his suggestions is to take them to U-Pick farms or join a local co-op where the kids are involved from planting to harvesting. Every child should know the joy of whiling away a warm summer afternoon in a barn, an owl snoozing in the rafters and a litter of newborn kittens sandwiched between bales of hay.

Kathy Coatney has worked as a freelance photojournalist for 15 years, starting in parenting magazines, then fly fishing and finally specializing in agriculture. Her latest project is the Farmer Guy/Gal series of children’s picture books with an agriculture theme.

View her photos at: www.agstockusa.com.

Like her at: www.facebook.com/kathycoatney

Follow her on twitter @KathyCoatney.com

Visit her website at: www.kathycoatney.com

Life, Snow and Painting

Sunday morning started like many mornings…I went to kitchen, started my coffee and sat down at the computer to catch up on Twitter and Facebook, while waiting for the first pot brew. It was still dark outside, but I could tell we had received some snow. After replying to a few mentions and posting a few thoughts on Twitter, I opened up Facebook. The very first post that I saw was from a friend who usually posts in the afternoon,

a very very sad thing happened in the valley today! please grab your loved ones hold on tight and tell em you love them! life is too short!!

I had just finished reading the post and wondering what had happened when my phone rang…not common before 6:30…it was a close friend. The news, tragic…a very dear family, to both of us, had lost their son, by his own hand. We talked for a few minutes, both in shock and said a prayer for the family. Read more…

Versatile Blogger Award

First, I would like to thank Tracy (@NEwheatie), author of NebraskaWheatie and Cheryl (@DayAngus), author of farmchiclogic, for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award. It is an honor to be thought of in this way.

What is the Versatile Blogger? In my opinion, it is a neat way to recognize blogs and share appreciation. Here are the “rules” for participating:

  1. Thank and link the person/people nominating you.
  2. List and pass the nomination on to 15 of your favorite bloggers.
  3. Share seven tidbits about yourself.
  4. Copy this picture to your blog.

Read more…

Yahoo and Agvocating…Time To Look In The Mirror

I can’t help but shake my head in disbelief at some of the responses coming from some in the agricultural community in regards to the article in Yahoo News that listed the “College Majors That Are Useless.”

I am particularly disappointed when I see individuals who are “teaching” others how to utilize social media to agvocate and individuals who have attended training’s, react in such a way.

This article and the one last May were wonderful opportunities to respond in a positive manner and encourage dialogue and conversation on the topic.

However, what ensued were multiple comments, tweets and responses on Facebook that were little more than shouting and bragging…not productive. Read more…

“Control The Conversation…NOT!”

September 27, 2011 11 comments

This post is a result of my seeing multiple posts on Twitter, Facebook and even in print that simply cause me to shake my head and ask, Why?

Why are we so afraid of encouraging people to speak from personal experience?

Why are we so afraid to of encouraging people to share their unique perspective?

Why can’t we embrace differences and work together to solve challenges that we all face…together.

Why?

ENOUGH ALREADY….PLEASE!!!

I am still seeing “professionals” and organizations talking about “controlling the message,” “controlling conversations,” providing “talking points” for those who are going to be in the “spotlight” and not being able or willing to trust people or even their own members.

“Don’t let anyone tell you that you have to be a certain way. Be unique. Be what you feel.” – Melissa Etheridge 

NEWS FLASH: People are unique. Perspectives are unique. Everyone has a different story to share, a different way to share it and that is what makes different people interesting to different people.

Positive relationships are developed on mutual trust and respect.

Mutual trust and respect is a result of open and honest conversations.

Open and honest conversations can only occur if individuals share their own story, their own way, in their own words.

If our objective is truly to reach understanding, between those in a respective industry and those outside, all of the individuals must be themselves and speak from personal experience.

Controlling messaging and controlling conversations will never lead to trust, respect or a positive outcome for anyone.

“I am disillusioned enough to know that no man’s opinion on any subject is worth a damn unless backed up with enough genuine information to make him really know what he’s talking about.”H. P. Lovecraft 

 

PLEASE! Stop The Finger Pointing

September 19, 2011 2 comments

“Remember, when you are pointing your finger, you have three others pointing back at you.”

This old adage has never been more relevant. It saddens me to see the accusations and inflammatory remarks flying through the social media streams, particularly in the arena of agriculture: food, fiber, shelter and the production of those resources.

There is nothing to be gained by “yelling” at one another. Read more…

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