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Scott Valley accomplishments and needs
by Marcia Armstrong, Siskiyou County Supervisor District 5 6/16/06

This week Scott Valley saw an official recognition and celebration of the many collaborative efforts of local landowners to work on the land in a manner that harmonizes with the needs of salmon and steelhead fish. Ryan Broderick, Director of the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG), and California Wildlife Conservation Board (CWCB) Executive Director, Al Wright, spoke to a group gathered at a Scott Valley Ranch. They praised the cooperation of our farmers and ranchers and their successful partnership with the CWCB on projects such as fish screens.

Gary Black from the Siskiyou Resource Conservation District (RCD) pointed out the many projects that had been implemented within steps of the group: (1) a self-cleaning fish screen to prevent fish from entering an irrigation ditch – returning them to the river; (2) a culvert pipe to efficiently carry diverted water to its destination, while minimizing water loss; (3) a riparian fence to exclude cattle as part of the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Conservation Reserve Program (CRP); and (4) a vortex boulder weir to replace old fashioned “push up gravel dams” used in irrigation with a more permanent and natural structure that is passable by fish. Black also pointed out that the Department of Water Resources has installed headgates on watermastered streams to control and measure flow and that these devices were also now being installed in other areas of the Valley.

The entire Scott River Basin is 814 square miles or 520,968 acres. Of these, 316,471 acres are privately owned, with about 32,443 of these acres in irrigation. 

In total, there are 90 active water diversion points in the Scott Valley. Now, 61 of these have screens, with 32 of these funded by the CWCB. In the entire system, riparian fencing has been installed on 98% of the Scott River mainstem, with Shackelford, French and Sugar Creeks fully fenced where livestock are present. It is estimated that 25-40 miles of stream with anadromous fish use remain unfenced. Riparian planting has now been done on more than 180 acres in the watershed (mostly on the mainstem Scott River.) Fifteen vortex boulder rock weirs have replaced gravel dams that prevented fish passage out of an estimated total of 35 opportunities. 

The RCD has been moving toward the difficult challenge of strategically enhancing river flows where needed during critical life stages of rearing and migration for the fish. Phase I of a Water Trust that operates within the legal parameters of the existing Scott River Adjudication to purchase flows during critical periods has been completed. Phase II, the development of the Trust, is underway. Next, funds to establish an endowment for funding will be sought.

In addition, approximately 8-12 opportunities have been identified for piping or other water conservation devices to reduce ditch leakage and dedicate water savings to a stream segment. One flow enhancement project has been completed on Sugar Creek that pipes four miles of ditch and dedicates some water savings to instream flow during irrigation season.            

The Siskiyou RCD has many projects lined up awaiting funding that are construction ready, requiring only minor design and permitting work prior to installation. These are projects identified as high priorities in the California Coho Recovery Plan, Scott River Strategic Action Plan, and the Long Range Plan for the Klamath River that could be completed in the near future.

There are currently about $4,600,000 in future water projects – such as piping or lining leaky diversion ditches and using alternative irrigation or livestock watering systems. These will increase instream flows during low flow periods and at the places where they are needed for migrating juvenile and adult fish.  There are about $675,000 in future instream projects. These include bioengineered stream bank protection projects and structures, such as “large woody debris,” that increase habitat complexity.

About four water diversions, (in the areas where coho are known to go,) remain unscreened. It would cost about $120,000 to screen them. It will also cost $100,000 to regularly maintain these and the 60 screens already installed. This does not include the additional 11 screens needed for areas where anadromous fish other than coho are known to go. Additionally, 18 diversions currently impede fish passage during some point of the water year. Other structures such as rock weirs could be installed for $1,300,000.

Finally, it would take around $440,000 to support the RCD organization so that it can bid, oversea, manage and account for these projects.

The celebration highlighted that we have something very special in Siskiyou County that shines as an example for the rest of the state. This was clearly acknowledged and appreciated by the CDFG and the CWCB. We have done the footwork to educate landowners, create relationships of trust and establish cooperative relationships that encourage landowners to make changes on the ground to enhance habitat for anadromous fish. We are now poised to move forward. All we need is continued financial and technical support to “get ‘er done.” Good job Scott Valley!     





Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

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