Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
Doubt and distrust
by John Bowman, Siskiyou Daily News November 16, 2012
Representatives of the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) faced tough crowds at two meetings on Nov. 13 and 14 where they introduced the first phase of a process that will ultimately yield minimum in-stream flow recommendations for the Scott and Shasta rivers.
The agency says they are required by the California Public Resources Code to make the recommendations to the California Water Resources Control Board for a list of streams across the state. They told audiences in Fort Jones and Yreka that the first phase of the process will gather input and recruit participation from landowners and interest groups in order to form a study plan that considers as many perspectives as possible.
Judging by questions and comments from the audiences, strong doubts and distrust in CDFG will make landowner participation in the process a hard sell.
The “orientation” meeting opened with an introduction by Curtis Thalken, a hydrologic engineer from Normandeau Environmental Consultants and a former commander for the Army Corp of Engineers. Normandeau was awarded a CDFG contract to perform the initial study planning phase of the flow studies.
“We like to pride ourselves on the fact that what we do is just solid science,” Thalken told the audience of about 100 at the Holiday Inn Express in Yreka on Wednesday night. “It’s not shaded one way or the other.”
Thalken said he grew up in Nebraska and his grandparents, on both sides of his family, were farmers. He assured the audience that his upbringing made him familiar with issues of farming and irrigation.
Curtis Milliron, CDFG’s northern region fisheries program manager acknowledged the agency’s local trust deficit. He said his agency’s effort to work through the difficulties of resource management in Siskiyou County “have been going on for a long time.”
In October of 2009 a CDFG attempt to develop an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) program in the Scott and Shasta rivers was halted by lawsuits by environmental and tribal groups. Milliron said Wednesday night he understands “... that failure resulted in a lot of people getting burned. And a lot of trust was lost.”
He said that situation left “... a large hole to dig ourselves out of. And yet, we are here and we’re going to try again,” he added.
Milliron’s statement in Yreka was no exaggeration. He, Thalken and other agency representatives spent the rest of the meeting listening to criticisms and charges of deceit and hypocrisy by state and federal officials.
County supervisor Michael Kobseff told Thalken several times that the process would be flawed from the outset. He said that the study’s baseline information and assumptions were biased because they were supplied by what he alleges are biased government studies.
Several audience members questioned the authority by which the state intends to make and implement the flow recommendations.
Retired rangeland ecologist and Scott Valley rancher John Menke said he questions one of the underlying assumptions of the process – the assertion by CDFG and environmentalists that fish numbers have been declining in the Scott and Shasta rivers over the past few decades.
“We’ve got a hell of an accounting problem,” Menke said, referring to the way fish populations and harvest quotas are monitored. He also accused the agencies of trying to displace agricultural producers. He pointed to the CDFG biologists saying, “These guys right up here, they want us out of here,” to which the audience offered loud applause.
Later in the meeting, Menke also charged that the demise of coho salmon in coastal rivers was the fault of “drug junkies diverting water to grow marijuana.”
Another audience member said he was tired of seeing his friends and neighbors leaving the county because of environmental regulations. He added, “God made us in his likeness and we have been given dominion over [nature]. Fish are not the most important thing. The people and our way of life should be way, way above all that stuff.”
While some audience comments drifted into theology and philosophy, others focused on scientific factors that would influence the outcome of the flow study, such as upland forest management, domestic groundwater use and the effects of suction dredge mining on habitat and stream flows.
Shasta Valley rancher Don Meamber said he fears if the ultimate flow recommendations are moderate enough to be acceptable to the agricultural community they will likely be challenged in court by environmentalists. He cited the failed ITP process as an example.
Lake Shastina Community Services District President Tom Wetter agreed with Meamber’s concerns over the potential for lawsuits. Summing up the fears of many in the audience, he said, “It’s very difficult to be forthcoming and forthright and come up with ideas because, you know, you’re putting bullets in somebody else’s gun.”
Throughout the meeting, Thalken responded to most questions and comments by saying that the issues raised need to be included in the next round of meetings. Those meetings will be guided by a participatory model known as a Legal Institutional Analysis Model (LIAM) designed to integrate a wide variety of perspectives in decision making processes.
The LIAM workshops will be used to choose 60 representatives and form a technical advisory group to gather the input of interest groups, including landowners.
The first round of LIAM workshops will be held on Dec. 4 in Fort Jones and Dec. 11 in Yreka. Those interested in being part of the LIAM process may complete an interest form at normandeau.com/scottshasta.
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml
Page Updated: Tuesday November 20, 2012 12:23 AM Pacific
Copyright © klamathbasincrisis.org, 2001 - 2012, All Rights Reserved