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What’s wrong in Siskiyou County?

By Capt. William E. Simpson, USMM

11/20/14 – [An Open Letter to the Siskiyou County Commissioners and Doug LaMalfa, U.S. House of Representatives for CA District 1]. It was about 7:00 a.m. when I went outside to watch the sun rise over the majestic snow-capped mountains to the east of our home above Iron Gate Lake. As I surveyed the picturesque tree-covered mountains and valleys that unfold around our little place in paradise, a small herd of deer grazed nearby as an array of colorful birds were drinking from a puddle of water formed by the overnight rains. The distant calls of water-fowl on the lake below that is formed by the Iron Gate dam resonated off the canyon walls. It was indeed another day in paradise.

But there was a very dark cloud on the proverbial horizon; a handful of greedy special-interest groups, mostly from outside Siskiyou Country are seeking to remove several dams that are critical to the safety and welfare of the citizens of Siskiyou County, including the Iron Gate dam, which like the other dams in the County, forms a spectacularly beautiful and functional lake.

As the sun rose in the east, its rays cast the hues of a sunset across the shimmering lake below, and I wondered if the days of this treasure were truly numbered. How could anyone for any reason want to dispose of such an amazing resource? The list of logical reasons for the removal of the dams in Siskiyou Country is non-existent. However, the logic and reason that supported the time and money spent for the design, construction and continual updating of these dams is undeniably pragmatic and critical to the ongoing safety and welfare of the citizens of Siskiyou County. And the reasons for the indefinite retention of these dams as well as the construction of additional dams are compelling and numerous.

Siskiyou Country may very-well be a paradise on earth as are several of the neighboring Northern California counties. Nonetheless, these counties are barely scraping-by financially, which is almost inconceivable when you consider that these counties are very rich in natural resources, not to mention a skilled workforce that is suffering from 18-20% unemployment. But how is this possible?

As with the case in point (removal of the dams in Siskiyou County) where we have powerful special-interest forces outside of our County trying to control the resources that are rightfully under the jurisdiction of the County, we have other special-interest groups who for profit and political motives, want to control all of the resources that are intrinsic to Siskiyou County. These resources should rightfully only be managed by the local government as directed by the citizens and taxpayers of the County. And the effects of ill-conceived agendas sponsored by these special interest groups are far reaching into the local economies of Siskiyou County and her neighboring counties.

During our own property search within Northern California, it was apparent that there are many thousands of acres of prime residentially zoned lands on and around various lakes. This property, which amounts to many thousands of acres, is suitable for small ranches and homesteads, yet is sitting vacant even though they are listed and offered for sale. And through my inquiries, I learned that these many thousand acres of land have been sitting vacant for a long time, even though they are priced very cheaply. Naturally my curiosity was peaked; what was wrong? Was the land the problem?

As I dug deeper into the lands in and around the lakes, I learned that the dams that formed the lakes near these hundreds of properties were under threat of being removed. And that few buyers (if any) wanted to buy a property that would front an emptied lake filled with silt and mud. Even the values of the hundreds of properties not fronting the lakes were being adversely affected by the potential loss of the recreational value of the lakes and water reserves of the lakes.

Siskiyou County and her neighboring counties are all incredibly well endowed with natural resources that include among other things, minerals and timber. However, through the mismanagement and oversight of these resources by powerful entities from outside Siskiyou County, many of these resources are not correctly utilized, or are wasted in wholesale fashion, such as our forests and timber reserves, which through obtuse management concepts are now burning to the dirt faster than they can be re-grown, presenting a net-loss of forest and timber annually. Of course even a child knows that this is not sustainable for very long.

With an overview of all of these existing maladies, a logical person could almost deduct that there is a concerted effort to marginalize the property values and livability within Siskiyou County to a point where some entity (or a composite of entities) could swoop-in and buy or control lands rich in resources for pennies on the dollar. After-all, if you connect all the dots, they seem to create and indicate such probability.

From my chair, I think that Siskiyou County, as well as her neighboring counties are facing a crucial crossroads in their futures at this exact point in time.

One of the fastest ways to stimulate a local economy is to stimulate land sales and draw more interested stake holders into the County. The incremental revenues from the subsequent land sales and development of lands being sold for residential development are significant with revenues that span across all business sectors in the County.

I believe that by ending the threats of dam removal in the County, once and for all, Siskiyou County could see a revival in its economy. And growth from there is possible if the County can to some extent unbridle itself from the outside interests and agencies who are dictating the ridiculous management and use of the County’s and private-sector resources.

We just lost nearly two-hundred thousand acres of timber to fires stemming from mismanagement of the forests and timber resources. These trees, which are now ashes that are mixed with silt and mud flowing into the spawning beds of salmon and steelhead, could have instead fueled the local economy with timber related industry and jobs!

I have suggested one course of action in a prior commentary that involves the application of the process of ‘Eminent Domain’, whereby Siskiyou County would seek to gain ownership and control over all of the dams within its jurisdiction to the benefit of the public. The dams in Siskiyou County are crucial to the welfare and safety of the County’s citizens as well as serving the recreational needs and supporting property values, and as such, the benchmarks for undertaking such a process are certain met.

The time for action is now!



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