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Program pays voluntary water diverters on Scott Valley streams

Miners Creek Schononeweb..jpg By Submitted Photo - Water diversion on a French Creek tributary is being measured by the California Department of Water Resources Watermaster Joe Scott, prior to being leased by the Scott River Water Trust.
Siskiyou Daily News August 20, 2009
Etna, Calif. - The Scott River Water Trust is seeking to lease water for the rest of the summer from active water users on priority streams in Scott Valley, a  press release announced this week.

Water diverters will get paid for the voluntary and temporary release of their water into the stream. The purpose of the leased water is to increase stream flow to help young salmon and steelhead fish survive and grow during this low flow period, the release stated. Three water leases are currently underway in French Creek, but more are sought.

Targeted streams are French Creek, Shackleford Creek (including Mill Creek), South Fork Scott River and East Fork Scott River. These streams provide the cooler water that can support these coldwater fish through the warm summer months. This year is a dry water year and stream conditions are dire, the release said. When a stream’s flow gets too low, the young fish can die or stop growing due to lack of space and food, warm water, or poor water quality.

“Higher priority water rights that can continue to divert water until the end of irrigation season under the relevant water rights decree are of the most interest by the Water Trust,” said the organization’s consultant, Sari Sommarstrom. Water lease payments are established at a rate (per acre-foot) that provides compensation for the loss of water use, plus a premium for this dry water year. Prices increase when neighboring diversions are leased. When longer stream distances are leased, the fish benefit is greater with the increased habitat. Diversions cannot be leased by the Trust after they have been turned off.

The Scott River Water Trust is the first active water trust in California. Water was first leased in French and Shackleford creeks in 2007. Last summer, five leases were obtained on three streams, for flows ranging from 0.2 to 1.0 cubic feet per second (cfs,) and for a total amount of 331 acre-feet of water. At least 3.6 miles of stream had increased flow and better fish habitat due to these leases.

The Scott River Water Trust is becoming a separate nonprofit organization with its own board of directors and local advisory committee. Board members are: Dave Krell, Brad Erickson, Marilyn Seward, Jim De Pree, and Peter Yolles. Advisory board members include: Gary Black, Rick Barnes, Mike Bryan, Greg Farnam, Steve Orloff, Mark Pisano, and John Spencer. Initial efforts were spearheaded by Sari Sommarstrom, Gary Black, and the Siskiyou Resource Conservation District (RCD), which now serves as a fiscal sponsor of the Water Trust Program along with the local Siskiyou Institute. Funding comes from private and federal sources this year.

If water diversion meets all of the above criteria and individuals are interested in leasing during this summer or next, contact Sari Sommarstrom at the Scott River Water Trust at (530)467-5783 or sari@sisqtel.net, or Gary Black at the Siskiyou RCD at 467-3975 or sisqrcd@sisqtel.net. More information is also available on the Trust’s Web site at www.scottwatertrust.org
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