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Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Ridin' Point

- a weekly column published in the Siskiyou Daily News

November 13, 2012 by Marcia Armstrong, Siskiyou County Supervisor


Scott Valley Groundwater: In 2010, the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors added Title 3, Chapter 19 “Groundwater Management Planning” to the Siskiyou County Code of Ordinances. The Chapter allows for the creation of Groundwater Advisory Committees (GWACs) to the Board for the ten or more groundwater basins in the county. These GWACs are to provide voluntary locally driven direction to the Board regarding groundwater planning.


The California Constitution allows a county or city to make and enforce within its limits all local, police, sanitary, and other regulations that do not conflict with the state's own general laws. Under this authority Siskiyou County has jurisdiction over groundwater use. In Scott Valley, it shares that authority with the Siskiyou County Superior Court. The Court has jurisdiction over the water rights of groundwater users in the interconnected groundwater/surface water zone as specified under the Scott River Adjudication Decree.


The GWAC was created for Scott Valley by Board resolution in January of 2011, with eleven representative appointees from major groundwater users in various geographic sections of the valley. This committee includes irrigators, the city of Fort Jones and a domestic user. All of its meetings have been open to the public.


The Committee has several goals: To “keep control of groundwater supply within Siskiyou County, protect property rights and Scott Valley’s agricultural economy, to develop solutions to resolving environmental-related issues for the Scott Valley aquifer” and to seek the ability (money, skills and commitment) to implement the groundwater plan.


The plan for groundwater management in Scott Valley has several objectives: (1) to improve our understanding of how groundwater and surface water behave; (2) to maintain the long term viability of the aquifer and assure that an overdraft condition never materializes; (3) to reduce the conflict between groundwater use and other uses of water – including effects of groundwater use on cold water fish; (4) to improve public understanding of how agriculture uses wells and applies irrigation to local crops; (5) to identify non-agriculture water demands; and (6) to identify potential groundwater use efficiency and enhancement projects.


Current committee Chairman, Tom Menne, recently presented recommendations to the Board for a “Voluntary Groundwater Management and Enhancement Plan for Scott Valley.” It was unanimously approved by the Supervisors.


The plan identifies a variety of voluntary actions that can be taken by water users to manage and enhance the resource. These actions include identifying options: (1) to increase groundwater and surface water supply; (2) to increase groundwater recharge; (3) to improve upland water storage and management; and (4) to manage demand through actions such as utilization of more efficient irrigation systems, more water-efficient varieties of crops, and utilization of sump ponds.


The GWAC has been working closely with Dr. Thomas Harter of University of California at Davis and various graduate students to develop a sophisticated groundwater model for Scott Valley. Major landowners have provided a great deal of input on specific cropping patterns, the amount of water applied and the specific methods of application for their operations. Farm Advisor Steve Orloff is also conducting a study on local irrigation applications to input into Harter’s model. The Harter model is far more detailed than the competing groundwater model commissioned by the Karuk tribe.


In addition, the model will reflect data from the (now) private Scott Valley Community Groundwater Measuring Program. This effort began in 2006 and now includes 36 wells covering a valley-wide grid. The model will be used to test various hypothesis regarding such things as: the connections between groundwater and surface water; the impacts of groundwater use on surface water flows and temperature; and the impacts of groundwater levels on the health of riparian vegetation.


Flow Needs for Fish: A reminder that the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is hosting two “orientation meetings” focused on instream flow needs for fish in the Scott and Shasta River watersheds. The meetings will introduce a process for developing study plans. The Scott River meeting will be on Tuesday, November 12, from 6-8 p.m. at the Fort Jones Community Center at 11960 East Street. The Shasta River Meeting will be held on Wednesday, November 14, from 6 - 8 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Express in Yreka.



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