About 50 county residents filled every seat, with many others standing along the walls and listening from the hallway through the open door as DFG biologists Mark Pisano and Curtis Milliron outlined the various stages of the multi-year flow study.
“Well, I’m a little overwhelmed with all the attention this has gotten here today,” Milliron began, referring to the crowd filling the rear of the chamber.
By way of introduction to the study concept, Milliron began by stating that in 1930, the Shasta River received about 80,000 chinook salmon, the highest return on record. The number of returning adult chinook and Coho has been in steady decline since then, according to Milliron, who said the declines “are the basis of DFG’s desire to do what they can” to improve salmon numbers in the Scott and Shasta rivers.
Pisano then explained to the board that the flow study is only in its planning stage at this point. He told the board and the crowd that the flow study will be open and transparent, and will include a stakeholder team and many opportunities for public input.
Board Chairman Jim Cook was the first to comment after the DFG’s presentation.
“Personally, I think this is yet another process where you have an already-determined outcome and you are looking for data to back up your conclusions,” Cook told the biologists. “It’s a study to justify the means.”
Several of the board members and County Counsel Tom Guarino told Pisano and Milliron they were convinced that the Scott and Shasta studies would be used to bolster dam removal efforts that, in the board’s opinion, currently lack sufficient scientific justification.
District 5 Supervisor Marcia Armstrong told the DFG representatives, “There is nothing you can do to pour more gas on the concerns of the public than what you’ve just done. You’ve destroyed all of the trust with landowners. You’re not coordinating with us. You’re not asking our permission – we don’t give our permission. You’re just gonna run right over people and take their water rights.”
“There are many other streams below the dams,” District 4 Supervisor Grace Bennett said.
Milliron responded that the Shasta and Scott rivers host the second largest populations of coho salmon in California, making them “historically and currently incredibly essential streams for recovering the species.”
Milliron added that DFG has done many investigations into conditions on other Klamath tributaries.
After the board members took turns addressing their concerns, nearly 20 citizens filled the next hour with comments.
Many commenters expressed belief that this and other government projects, such as Klamath dam removal, are really attempts to take private property and water rights away from landowners.
Don Macintosh told the biologists that the “DFG has become a corrupt, almost evil agency.”
Many other commenters, such as Dr. Richard Gierak, expressed their belief that coho salmon were not native to the Klamath River watershed and therefore efforts to increase their numbers here are wasteful and illegal.
Julie Webster of Scott Valley told the biologists that, “Most of us here don’t give a big hoot for your salmon.”
Webster went on to say that she felt environmental regulation is the cause of many social problems in the county, including unemployment, divorce, child abuse, alcoholism and drug abuse.
Comments by several others also raised concerns about certain DFG practices such as placement of fish weirs in the rivers to count fish and marking techniques used by hatcheries.
Pisano and Milliron spent the hour-long comment period listening and taking notes.
“I’ve been to a fair number of public meetings and comment periods and this is the most notes I’ve ever taken,” Milliron told the board after the final comment. “I wish we could go back 25 years, but we can’t. This is were we are and we’re going to work from here. I’m going to work with you to try, together, to make conditions better for chinook, Coho, steelhead and people.”