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Pioneer Press, Fort Jones, California August 10, 2005 Vol. 32, No. 42 Page A1, column 2
State going after Scott – hardcore
Landowners along Scott River are about to get slammed by state.
By Liz Bowen, Pioneer Press Assistant Editor, Fort Jones, California
FORT JONES, Calif. – Increased regulations with costly permits, fees and possible fines will affect landowners along the Scott River.
Currently, the state is creating an action plan that will fix "impairments" in the water quality of the Scott River. Landowners will be expected to do the fixes with or without government funding.
Additionally, the California State North Coast Regional Water Control Board has its eye focused on proposing a ground water study of the Scott River, which could drastically affect the pumping of agricultural water for farmers and ranchers.
What is likely to follow? The shutdown of agriculture; complete the demise of the timber industry; and affect all landowners in the Scott Valley by establishing a grading regulation.
The state action plan will address warm water temperatures and sediment in Scott River. So far, the draft document is over an inch thick. It will go out for comments from the public soon.
Local residents claim the state agency is using incorrect data in several instances, which is creating "unreachable" goals.
Fixes must be practical to work.
Are the goals realistic?
Are the goals attainable?
Those were the questions asked over and over again during a meeting last week with staff employees of the state regional water quality control board.
Scott River is in the hot seat in more ways than one -- and local landowners are concerned that the state regional water quality staff does not fully understand the complex dynamics of the Scott River.
Nearly three years ago, staff from the regional water quality control board encouraged landowners in the Scott Valley to participate in a Technical Advisory Group, called TAG, in discussing the possible fixes to "impairments" in the Scott River. Six meetings and workshops were held during the last two-and-a-half years, with rancher John Menke being the most consistent member to attend meetings. Menke is a retired professor from University of California Berkeley and Davis. He was instrumental in establishing models for improvements in the environment and specialized in utilizing cattle grazing to improve wildlife habitat.
The term "TMDL" is used to explain the development and actions of the plan. According to the state, only Total Maximum Daily Loads or TMDLs will be allowed for the Scott River in water temperature and sediment. To fix, or in these two cases, reduce the water temperature and sediment, these actions are being established.
In order to accomplish the action plans -- projects, programs and regulations will be implemented. Along with the regulations will be new permits for doing a variety of projects for normal activities along the river. Some will involve establishing shade, while others are about runoff of water.
Permitting and enforcement of water quality has been established through the California Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act.
This Porter-Cologne Act established the State Water Resources Control Board and each Regional Water Quality Control Board as the principal state agencies for having primary responsibility in coordinating and controlling water quality in California.
Above the state is the federal Clean Water Act, which created the Environmental Protection Agency. It is that agency that ultimately listed the Klamath River and its tributaries, like the Salmon, Scott and Shasta, as "impaired" back in 1992.
There was no specific criteria for the designation of "impairment," according to state staff, which has been questioned. But 13 years later, extensive criteria has been developed as targets for improvements. Many landowners want the enhancement actions and projects that have been implemented during those 13 years to be acknowledged by the state.
It is also the EPA that is demanding the states complete TMDL action plans to fix the problems. And the timetable is tight, according to staff members of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.
Ground water study will affect water rights
The hottest issue discussed at the Aug. 2 TAG meeting in Fort Jones was over a ground water study that is included in the draft "action plan" document. Scott Valley has an unusual adjudication of ground water.
Adjudication is the legal process that established water rights with specific allotments (amounts) of water, which are a part of parcel of property. This was established through each county’s superior court under the state water right law.
Because ground water near the Scott River is considered part of the Scott River, legal adjudication has already been established for wells along with an allotment of water use. It is the owner’s legal water right. Courts have declared that a water right is property.
Opening adjudication will allow the public and third party entities, such as Klamath Forest Alliance or Sierra Club, to contest the allocation of water. Presently, courts are consistently ruling favor of environmental conservation or Endangered Species Act protections and against current land practices involving agriculture or timber.
Menke put it in a nutshell, when he told the staff, "You are proposing a study that will take away the legal purchased rights" of landowners.
Unattainable shade for the Scott?
Shade should be at historical percentage on the Scott River, according to the regional water quality staff employees creating the action plan regarding temperatures.
The draft action plan document claims that shade is likely to have impact on temperatures. This sounds reasonable. But after sitting in a TMDL meeting, one realizes that shade is only one aspect of a series of complex issues that affect water temperature.
Since several previous meetings that have been held recently in Siskiyou County, the water quality board staff has reduced the percentage of trees that they believe need to be established along the banks of the main stem of the Scott River.
In a push to return to what they believe is "historical," they want at least 50 percent of the river shaded by 78-foot tall cottonwoods and other trees and vegetation. They have allowed that it will take 60 years or more to create the forested areas.
During several meetings, Menke has told the staff that they have used consultants without forestry expertise for the Siskiyou area, which has affected their data; and as a result creates a model of shade along the river that is unattainable.
One staff member, Bryan McFadin, responded to Menke that he believes their consultants are qualified.
Many landowners say they have planted trees many times and floods come in and blast out banks and trees; even the bigger mature trees. Fifty percent of shade is desirable by everyone involved, but landowners provide many practical reasons why nature will not allow it.
At the Aug. 2 meeting, Scott River TAG group members asked if their comments would be included in the final draft of the Scott River action plan. This group had participated with the state agency during the last two-and-a-half years, but were told that they would need to make comments during the public comment period, which begins when the draft is deemed "final." Previously, the TAG members were told they could make comments until Aug. 12 on the draft.
TAG member and rancher, Jeff Fowle, told the state agency staff, "I want concerns addressed, before it goes public."
Ranjit Gill, the lead state staff member in attendance, responded to Fowle and said that he should wait until the staff report comes out. The draft document is still being "prepared according to protocol," said Gill.
Rancher Menke responded that it is "unfair" not to include TAG members’ comments in the draft action plans. "But I am not surprised," he finished.
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM Pacific
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