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 http://users.sisqtel.net:80/armstrng/opinion120508.htm DEIR for the coho ITP and 1602
marcia8.jpg.jpg (10768 bytes) Draft Environmental Impact Report for the coho Incidental Take Permit and 1602

Ridin' Point

- a weekly column published in the Pioneer Press


Tuesday, the California Dept. of Fish and Game (CDFG) will finally provide the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors with a briefing on the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the proposed watershed-wide 1602 streambed alteration permit and programmatic coho incidental take permits (ITP) for the Scott and Shasta Valleys. Unfortunately, the briefing will occur on the same day that comments are due.

Recently, I attended a meeting on the permits and DEIR held by the Siskiyou County Farm Bureau. Bill Krum from the Siskiyou Resource Conservation District (RCD) gave a timeline on how the permits came to be. About 7 years ago, the coho were listed by the State of California as a Threatened/Endangered species. The listing was challenged in court, but the case was lost at the Superior Court and Appellate Court levels. The California Supreme Court declined to hear the case. The listing stood.

Because many farming activities were perceived as having a risk of killing a fish, (prohibited under the California Endangered Species Act,) there appeared to be a need for an incidental take permit (ITP) to continue to farm and ranch without risk of possible prosecution. A programmatic group permit with one California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process appeared to be the cheapest and most convenient option to offer local agricultural landowners. Otherwise, every ranch or farm at risk would have to go through the very expensive process to obtain their own individual ITP.

It was decided that such a programmatic ITP could be held by either the County or the RCD. The County declined because: (1) It didn’t want to incorporate the permit into its regulatory, permitting and enforcement programs; and (2) the County wanted to retain its standing as a separate government with land use planning authority and not become a party to the permit.

Both RCD Boards in the Scott and Shasta Valleys did not want to take on the permit. Their mission is to assist people in the area of natural resources. They did, however, see a need to help bring people into compliance with the law, while keeping agriculture viable in the two valleys. So they finally “bit the bullet” and took the lead to make the application. This is the first time in the State of California that a large group permit held by an RCD has been attempted.         

In the meanwhile, local groups were meeting with state and federal agencies to come up with a Recovery Plan for the coho. Recommendations by the SSRT (Shasta and Scott Recovery Team) to the State Fish and Game Commission were made contingent upon proceeding with a programmatic ITP. In the meanwhile, under a new interpretation of the State Fish and Game Code 1602 provisions, CDFG asserted that anyone substantially diverting water from a stream would need a permit. So, the RCD incorporated a watershed-wide 1602 permit along with the ITP process.

The comment period on the DEIR is now closing. The CDFG will review and respond to the comments in the final EIR expected to come out in March. Agricultural landowners will then need to make a choice whether they wish to: (1) Meet the legal requirements on their own; (2) Participate under the RCD permits; or (3) Do neither and respond to any consequences from the CDFG. It also should be noted that anyone who signs up under the RCD program may chose to withdraw at any time, with the understanding that they will lose the protections offered by the program if they no longer participate. Under the program, participants will be responsible for the costs of avoiding and mitigating their own individual impacts and implementing the program’s best management practices, but the RCD will be responsible for directing larger scale watershed projects to mitigate cumulative impacts on the fish. These large projects will be dependent upon the receipt of grant funding to meet the costs..

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