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 snow pack in the mountains has long since melted. Tributaries to the Scott River and the river itself are quickly drying up, if not already. Contrary to what environmental activist groups, such as the Klamath River Keepers, Klamath Forest Alliance and the Environmental Protection Information Center, are saying, the drop in surface flows in the Scott River Watershed is due to a depleted snow pack, not because ditches are “running full.” Our ditches have not run “full” since the April. Our only saving grace has been two major thunderstorms, or likely all of the tributaries and the river would be merely standing pools. This year happens to be very dry, our winter snow pack was under 50 percent of average. It was to be expected that surface water would be limited starting in July. In average years, the current levels of flow are not realized until late August and mid September.
Understanding the system and realizing that salmon fingerlings are at risk, several ranchers, in voluntarily and cooperatively took action to save tens of thousands of young salmonids. Read more…
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.
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…
A lively #agchat discussion on the EPA last night prompted some further discussion on twitter during the after party. 140 characters was just not enough so I have thrown together some further thoughts here.
First, I have no doubt that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), CEPA (California Environmental Protection Agency), CAQCB (California Air Quality Control Board), CWRCB (California Water Quality Control Board) and the NCWQCB (North Coast Water Quality Control Board) were all implemented with the best of intentions. However, we all know where the road goes that is paved with good intentions. My comments are on all of these agencies as they overlap and often work together to address the same issues that I have been involved with. Also, these thoughts are from my personal experience in dealing with these agencies as they relate to my area: National Forest, private timber, irrigated and non-irrigated ag land, water quality and salmonid habitat. Read more…
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.
Honorable Senator Doug La Malfa
Honorable Assemblyman Jim Nielsen
February 17, 2011
I would like to personally thank both of you for your involvement in the matter of the California Department of Fish and Game Incidental Take Permit and the citizens of the Scott and Shasta Valley.
For more than 30 years the farmers and ranchers of the two valleys have been voluntarily improving water efficiency, installing fish screens, replacing push up dams with permanent, fish friendly structures and incorporating bypass flows into their diversion structure designs. All of these actions were done proactively to address potential impacts to salmonids. In addition, landowners along the two rivers have installed fencing to better manage grazing in riparian areas and have voluntarily stabilized banks and planted native vegetation to improve the habitat. Read more…