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The Pioneer Press at the very top of the State of California grants permission for this article to be copied and forwarded.

Pioneer Press, Fort Jones, California, November 1, 2006 Vol. 33, No. 50 Page A1, column 1

Water Quality Board goes fishing

By Liz Bowen, Pioneer Press, in Siskiyou County, Assistant Editor

FORT JONES, California – Now that the Scott River has been officially listed as “impaired” by the state for too much sediment and too warm of temperatures, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board must have an Action Plan to address the problems.

Three staff members from the Regional Control Board attended the Oct. 17, 2006 meeting of the Scott River Watershed Council. Regional Board staffer, Bryan McFadin, presented a strict timeline in developing an Action Plan. But, the elusiveness of how to develop the Action Plan was met with frustration by many of the locals in attendance.

McFadin seemed to be fishing for help, when he explained his staff “would really like to more forward with the community taking the lead.”

But when asked if the staff expected the Scott River Watershed Council to make the rules in the Action Plan, McFadin back-peddled saying he hoped the council could educate and inform the landowners.

Still, the Council members felt pressure to develop the Board’s Action Plan. The Council wondered why the pressure, because it is an “advisory” committee to the Siskiyou Resource Conservation District (RCD) and has no regulatory aspect in its mission statement.

Ric Costales, an executive member of the Council, said there seems to be a “major hemorrhoid over our particular river,” by the Regional Board. “It just seems overkill.”

But McFadin said, “ I feel we put the stick away for awhile … and realize you need more funding.”

He moved ahead explaining that there is a one-year timeline to develop a groundwater study plan as part of the Action Plan.

McFadin was reminded that the Regional Board notes in its Plan that “Siskiyou County” will develop a groundwater study. So once again, most audience members questioned why the Regional Board staff was approaching the Council, instead of the county.

McFadin continued and praised the Council and Siskiyou RCD for implementing a water-level study for the inter-connective zone of the Scott River this year. More than 30 landowners signed up to privately allow their wells to be measured each month. The data remains private, according to Council officials.

But McFadin then yanked the hook by saying this is “not a groundwater study” and may have lost his fish.
Ernie Wilkinson, another executive committee member of the Scott River Council, told McFadin that the Board’s staff should take into account that the landowners and RCD have been working on improvements in the Scott River for 15 years. McFadin said that his staff has understood there are improvements, but that the Board is being pushed by a strong group of people, who want the Scott River to be “hit” even harder. 

When individuals from the audience asked for exact details that a groundwater study would entail, McFadin did not know the answer, but suggested the Council try to obtain grants to hire outside consultants like those from USGS.

“We’ve got more damn plans than we have time to read,” summed-up Wilkinson, explaining the Council has a Strategic Action Plan for the Scott River watershed and the California Department of Fish and Game has a Coho Recovery Action Plan to name a few.

McFadin was told it seems redundant to keep doing studies and developing more “plans,” yet he admonished that his agency’s Action Plan must be developed.

McFadin’s presentation did show that the “groundwater study goals” should include:

1. Changes in river flows and water table elevations that result from ground water pumping.

2. The magnitude of groundwater recharge from leaking ditches and percolation of irrigated water.

3. Impacts of water take fluctuation on riparian vegetation.

4. Opportunities to increase subsurface water storage.

Another fishing expedition by the Regional Board staff was to “work” with the Council and others to develop a strategy for addressing water quality impacts associated with grazing. This should be formalized with an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding). Ultimately, grazers may need a permit to graze animals, according to McFadin.

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