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DFG did remove two fish screens along French Creek on Wednesday, October 6th, 2010 without contacting any of the three active water diverters

Citizens of Scott Valley and the State of California,

There has been much confusion in regards to the events that took place on October 4th through the 7th, 2010 in Scott Valley, within the French Creek drainage.  Reports that the head gate on surface diversion 43 had been shut down by the California Department of Fish and Game need to be cleared up.  Several people throughout Scott Valley have heard that the DFG had “shut down” this head gate and they are not happy about it.

This comes at a time when another water user in Quartz Valley is under pressure from the DFG to shut their head gate or be prosecuted by California State District Attorney, even though this person’s decree states that they may irrigate up to November; so naturally people are on edge.

With so much going back and forth about these two situations, the primary landowners and water users associated with the French Creek drainage would like to make a public statement about the events on diversions 43 and 47A.

Here are the facts:

1        DFG did remove two fish screens along French Creek on Wednesday, October 6th, 2010 without contacting any of the three active water diverters along diversion 43, or the other landowners that have water rights along this ditch.  In addition, the Department did not contact the landowner/water user of diversion 47A about the removal of a second fish screen that was assumed, by the Department, to be out of use for the season.  Both screens were removed for yearly maintenance according to the DFG.  These screens were installed by the Department several years ago, and have been maintained by this agency on a yearly basis.

2        According to the DFG, the screens were removed and set on the ditch bank because the employee in charge of maintaining fish screens, in this section of the valley, claimed that both ditches were dry, and that the ditches were no longer in use.  This assumption prompted the employee to remove the screens by his own accord.  Again, no water diverters or landowners were notified about the Departments actions.

3        On Thursday, October 7th, one water user at the end of the ditch realized that no stock water was flowing to his animals, and that three separate cattle herds had broken down fences and gotten mixed together in an effort to find water.  In addition, his horses got scrapes and cuts while breaking though fences to get to water.  The water user headed straight to the diversion to see if the head gate had been shut, which it had.  He then went to the fish screen to see if it had been removed, and it had.  The water user reinstalled the fish screens and promptly opened the head gate.  Later that day the DFG was contacted about the removal of the screens and the closing of head gate 43.

The DFG admits to taking out the screens but claimed the ditch was dry and the head gate was shut prior to the screens removal.

This information doesn’t coincide with reports from two water users that claim water was seen flowing Tuesday October 5, a day after the ditch (43) was said to be dry by the DFG.  As of today, no one has come forward to claim responsibility for tampering with the head gate.  At the other diversion (47A) the ditch was indeed dry, because the water users had shut it down several weeks back when water flows were low.  However, this does not give the DFG the right to remove the screens.

4        Four times in the last six years the Department has shut down head gates and removed fish screens without giving notification or asking for permission from any of the landowners or water users on diversion 47A and 43.  Most recently, in the fall of 2009, a very similar situation took place where the DFG admitted to closing the head gate on 43 to push out fish that would be trapped in between the head gate and the fish screen during low flows.  After the fish had been removed the screens, brushes and kick backs were pulled and the head gate left shut.

The Department of Water Resources ditch master for French Creek noticed the untimely closing of the head gate and contacted two of the primary water users on the ditch to see if either had closed it.  When both said they hadn’t, the DFG employees responsible for screen maintenance were contacted and asked if anyone from that agency had closed the head gate and pulled the screen, the answer was yes for both questions.  The water users asked, not for the first time, that they be contacted whenever the DFG would like to pull the screens for maintenance.

Clearly, the request to notify landowners and water users was not acknowledged.  These two instances, that took place in the fall of 2009 and the fall 2010, have similar patterns; closed head gates, pulled screens without permission or notification, and a pattern where the DFG has taken it upon themselves to assume that water users are either finished irrigating, or that flows are no longer sufficient for stock water delivery.  It is not the Departments responsibility to react on any assumptions it has in regards to landowner’s usage of water flow any time of the year on these two diversions or any other diversions in Scott Valley, for that matter.

5        The most important fact in understanding this situation is that the landowners on both diversions have year round stockwater adjudications.  Because of these adjudications the ditches are only shut down by the water users for maintenance, cleaning, and by the users and ditch master during periods of late season low flow when they deem that stockwater delivery is inadequate. The DFG has never had the authority to shut the head gates down for any reason unless permission is granted.

Lack of communication by the DFG put several landowners and water users on these two diversions at a serious liability.  What would happen if these head gates where opened up without the screens in place?  Fish could have swam straight into the irrigation ditches and into fields, which would have resulted in a “take” as defined by the DFG.  Also, the Departments actions could have been disastrous for livestock, if the situation was not reversed in a timely fashion.  Even with no one claiming responsibility for shutting the head gate, the DFG must be held accountable for its actions.

If it were a landowner or water user who was “out of compliance”, that person would be slapped with heavy fines for each violation.  It has been admitted by DFG employees, who work at the screen shop, on more than one occasion, that they have little communication with the “higher ups” (people in charged of enforcing and developing the ITP and 1600) and say that they know little about how the ITP and 1600 processes are supposed to work.  With the seriousness of the ramifications throughout Siskiyou County, and the State of California, it is unacceptable that any DFG employee would not be educated on the basics of the ITP and 1600.  The lack of proper training of the DFG employees has the potential to be very harmful for landowners and surface diverters and drops the credibility of these programs.  This is more proof about how flawed this permitting process is and how uncommitted the DFG is in its pursuit to see the ITP and 1600 properly developed.

We urge any landowners or surface water diverters who have been bullied, threatened, or had any aspect of their ditch water delivery systems tampered with, by an agency, person, or group, to come out with the information in order to have a clean record of these events and to get the proper information out to the public.

Preston Harris

Jim Harris

French Creek water diverters

Jeff Fowle

French Creek water diverter

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              Page Updated: Thursday October 28, 2010 01:08 AM  Pacific

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