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Local watermaster up and running
Siskiyou Daily News March 6, 2012
California — As of March 1, the Scott and Shasta Valley Watermaster District (SSWD) is up and running for their first season of monitoring many surface diversions previously overseen by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR). The newly created watermaster district has been in the works since DWR announced last summer that they would be shifting 100 percent of the cost for the service onto the irrigators that use it.
Until last year, the state had absorbed a large part of the cost of providing watermaster services to irrigators. However, the current state budget eliminates that contribution. The change has increased operating costs for local irrigators by as much as several thousand dollars in some cases.
On Dec. 22, Siskiyou County Superior Court judge Laura Masunaga signed the court order transfering DWR’s local authority over the service to the SSWD.
According to DWR, “The main purpose of the Watermaster Program is to ensure water is allocated according to established water rights as determined by court adjudications or agreements by an unbiased, qualified person, thereby reducing water rights court litigation, civil lawsuits, and law enforcement workload. It also helps prevent the waste or unreasonable use of water. The state established the Watermaster Program in 1924 to provide for general public welfare and safety after many injuries and some deaths resulting from disputes over adjudicated water rights.”
Watermaster service areas were created by DWR either at the request of water users or by order of the Superior Court, but may be modified by the current watermaster. The first watermaster service area was formed in September 1929.
SSWD said, “Today, 88 years later, the Scott and Shasta Valley Service Areas have joined other Watermaster Service Areas in the far north state region of California by successfully localizing this service and providing a cost savings compared to the continually increased budget of DWR and a cut of the State’s General Fund share in that cost.”
SSWD has contracted the district’s administration to a local private non-profit company, the Northern California Resource Center’s Business Resource division, run by Rhonda Muse, Project Manager.
GEI Consultants, Inc. out of Rancho Cordova has been contracted to perform the fieldwork duties of watermastering.
According to a SSWD press release, “you may not notice much difference in staff since the watermaster chores will be carried out by veteran watermasters, John Clements and Keith Dick, formerly from DWR.”
SSWD said Clements recently retired from DWR and will be supervising GEI’s on-the-ground work on behalf of SSWD. He supervised DWR’s watermaster service from Red Bluff between 1993 and 2000 and directly served as watermaster for the Scott and upper Shasta areas during 2003 and 2004.
“Dick has been a familiar face in both Valleys for decades,” SSWD said. “Most recently he has been the watermaster for the lower Shasta and Little Shasta areas for DWR.”
Dick will be the primary contact in Scott and Shasta Valleys until Clements arrives in the area on April 1.
As of April 1st Dick will continue overseeing water diversions on the Lower Shasta (below Dwinnell Reservoir) and the Little Shasta rivers and their tributaries.
Clements will provide watermaster duties for Shackleford, French, Oro Fino, Snicktaw, and Wildcat creeks on the Scott Valley side and the upper Shasta River and its tributaries (above Dwinnell Reservoir and Parks Creek).
The project manager for GEI Consultants, Inc. reporting to the SSWD, “is also no stranger to the watermaster service,” the SSWD release said.
Bill Bennett, a Vice President of the nationwide GEI firm, supervised the DWR’s watermaster work on the Scott and Shasta between 2002 and 2005. During his career with DWR, he also served as both DWR Northern District Chief in Red Bluff, Chief of the Division of Planning and Local Assistance in Sacramento, Special Manager for Klamath Water Issues, and was California’s representative to the Klamath Compact Commission.
“SSWD is happy to start its new service this month with such an experienced team, especially given the limited precipitation that the area has had this winter. Water will undoubtedly be short this spring and summer, so water diversions will need to be watched closely early,” the release concluded.
Keith Dick can be reached at (800) 783-6539.
John Clements can be reached at (800) 783-3196.
And Bill Bennett’s telephone number is (916) 764-0817.
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Page Updated: Thursday March 08, 2012 02:30 AM Pacific
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