The siege of Siskiyou
America’s rural counties and residents are under attack, but nowhere is the siege more apparent than it is in Siskiyou County. The people of Siskiyou, one of the state’s largest but least populated counties, have their backs to the wall.
There are places in Siskiyou where you can walk for hours without seeing more than a handful of people, and that’s the problem. The army they face is backed by politicians in Sacramento and Washington that were voted into office by the people of densely populated areas. Most city-folk could care less about what happens in places like Siskiyou. To them Siskiyou doesn’t exist, not even in fly-over country.
Over the past few decades those legislators have created a phalanx of laws and bureaucracies that have little or no impact on city dwellers but are literally squeezing the life out of our rural regions. Agriculture and ranching are being targeted for extinction in Siskiyou and the remaining property owners and small businesses that are trying to survive against the onslaught are at the top of the endangered species list.
Those very same politicians are also beholden to well-heeled environmental groups or other “non-profit” organizations. Add to that mixture an alphabet soup of resource agencies, which exist to protect everything but humans. Then toss in the tribal interests and animal rights groups and you have an army that is determined to re-wild the region regardless of the consequences.
The issue of removing the four perfectly good hydroelectric dams has been brought up numerous times in this column. The citizens of Siskiyou will pay the consequences if this hoax is ever consecrated by the Department of the Interior. Hopefully, an article in this week’s Human Events will slow the dam removal junkies down.
Meanwhile, the citizens of Siskiyou around Copco and Iron Gate Reservoirs have to put up with the unjustified posting of signs that drive the public away from these safe waters. The warning issued on July 24 by the State Water Resources Control Board was ominous: “State and U.S. EPA warn against blue-green algae in Copco and Iron Gate Reservoirs on Klamath River -- Contact with blue-green algae can cause eye irritation, skin rash; Caution urged when consuming fish.”
The truth is there has never been single documented case of a serious health threat from blue-green algae. Even the Center for Disease Control concluded BGA is not harmful. In fact, it is harvested and sold over the counter as a beneficial health supplement. Yet, the NCRWCB has posted warning signs off I-5 and near the reservoirs to needlessly scare people. That doesn’t mean jumping in and purposely swallowing gobs of the gooey stuff is recommended any more than we are advised to eat fish guts. The water board knows the Klamath River was laden with algae when the settlers arrived 160 years ago. That’s so because the region is rich in phosphorus, which is what BGE needs to flourish. Labeling the waters as toxic only serves as another way of influencing the public that it is the dams that are causing the algae to grow.
Another issue currently facing those who live in Siskiyou is the plan to release additional water from Trinity/Lewiston Lakes into the Trinity River this month and next. We have been told by various resource agencies those releases are to prevent another fish die-off like the one we had in the Klamath River in 2002. Some residents of Siskiyou think it could actually trigger another die-off, only this time the fish kill might occur above Weitchpec instead of below the confluence of the two rivers.
Proponents of the plan say it will cool down the Klamath River below Weitchpec and in the Pecwan Riffle area where the 2002 fish kill occurred. That could be true. If it does cool off the river at the right time, then there is at least a good chance the disease (Ich) that flourishes in the river’s warm waters could be dispersed.
However, Siskiyou residents fear that many salmon induced to leave the estuary at the mouth by the cold water releases will not turn right at Weitchpec into the Trinity. Those that stay in the Klamath could encounter the deadly conditions further upriver. With the largest run in recent history expected, it could get very crowded. Siskiyou residents rightly fear a die-off will also be used to justify dam removal even though there is no scientific evidence dam removal will actually benefit salmon. In fact, it could be a disaster, and the Department of the Interior has been already been caught red-handed trying to downplay the potential negative consequences.
Residents of Siskiyou’s Butte Valley face a problem that seems to be peculiar to Siskiyou County. Believe it or not they have too many elk. The elk are eating and/or destroying their hay crops but there isn’t much that can be done about it. In some cases, farmers are unable to get a second or third cutting completed. Overnight, the elk get into the bailed hay and then “mark”’ what they don’t eat to such an extent cattle and horses won’t eat it. Fish and Game is reluctant to issue more tags. That might not meet the approval of the Humane Society of the United States anyway.
What can a farmer do about this? Not much. Of course, the re-introduction of wolves, which has the full support of the DFG, might solve that problem eventually but the region already has the most efficient elk-killing machine ever designed – the mountain lion. But you can’t hunt cougar by law except when they’ve attacked livestock, and then professional exterminators are brought in by the DFG to do the job.
The above plus attempts to “save” coho salmon that were never abundant in the Mediterranean climate of the Shasta and Scott River valleys are modern-day siege techniques. Keep that in mind when paying your $150 fire-fee bill. They’re coming for you, too.