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The Pioneer Press, at the very top of the State of California, grants permission for this article to be copied and forwarded.

Pioneer Press, Fort Jones, California
Wednesday, March 1, 2005 Vol. 32, No. 19 Page B10, column 3
$117,500 goes to legal fees

-- SOSS has spent $160,000 in four years.

By Liz Bowen, assistant editor, Pioneer Press, Fort Jones, California

YREKA, CALIFORNIA – Water issues were the reason for a town hall meeting that was held by SOSS, Save Our Shasta and Scott Valleys and towns coalition, on Feb. 24 at the community theater. The leaders also reported on the financial situation of the organization.

SOSS was formed in 2001 to protect farmers and ranchers from damaging government regulations that would result from the listing of the coho salmon to the California Endangered Species Act. Through an extensive mobilization effort in the true grassroots genre, more than $160,000 was raised to save agriculture water from being confiscated by the government. This is a lot of money for a county that only boasts 43,000 people, but covers much of the land bordering Oregon.

A pie chart was displayed on the stage with a panel of speakers. It showed where SOSS funds had been spent. The largest wedge of the pie was for $117,500, which went to pay a water law attorney.

The other pieces were smaller: $15,500 went to hire a fish biologist: $11,800 to education; and $15,000 for administrative costs. The total donated by citizens of Siskiyou County to SOSS during the last four years was $160,000. The leadership is made up of volunteers from the Shasta and Scott Valleys.

"The original contributors got a pretty good bang for their buck," said Dave Dealey, president of the grassroots organization, who explained the pie chart.

Although the coho salmon was listed with the California ESA last August; through the coalition’s work, Siskiyou County is well known throughout the state, said Ron Lillard, who emceed the meeting.

Advocacy by the county government, SOSS and Siskiyou County Farm Bureau, has head-on addressed a variety of threats to agricultural water use. The issues are not yet resolved, but committees and leaders are involved up to their knees in finding solutions working with government agencies.

A fundraiser was announced at the end of the meeting. It will be held on May 14 at the Yreka Community Theater, according to President Dealey.

Threats to water are numerous

Blair Smith, from Shasta Valley, and Siskiyou County Administrator, Howard Moody, discussed the alternatives regarding the water master fees that were increased by the state Department of Water Resources (DWR) for this 2005 year and are expected to remain high for the 2006 year.

This year’s fees were reduced, because Bill Bennett of the DWR was able to obtain grant funds from the Klamath Bureau of Reclamation that went to pay the increase in the state water master fees.

Then Siskiyou County Supervisor for District 5, Marcia Armstrong, provided an in-depth report on the Conservation Implementation Plan, also known as CIP. The Klamath Bureau of Reclamation is the lead agency on this CIP, which is expected to create a committee that will include all stakeholders along the Klamath River – from the Pacific Ocean to the Upper Klamath Lake. Siskiyou County and landowners need to be involved.

Bill Krum, from Scott Valley, discussed the details of an Incidental Take Permit that landowners will be able to join for protection from an accidental killing of a juvenile salmon. Dave Webb explained the Shasta Valley’s Incidental Take Permit application that is also being submitted to the California Department of Fish and Game. Landowners will be offered the permit and they will voluntarily sign up if they are interested in protection from a possible $25,000 per dead fish.

Don Howell finished the evening explaining recent legal actions and court decisions on the "take" of property and the federal listing of the coho salmon.





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