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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
Wednesday, February 16, 2005 Vol. 32, No. 17

SOSS will discuss water issues

-- On Feb. 24, SOSS leaders will share up-to-date information.

By Liz Bowen, assistant editor, Pioneer Press, Fort Jones, California

YREKA, CALIFORNIA – Issues surrounding agriculture’s water needs will be discussed at a public meeting held by SOSS, the Save Our Shasta and Scott Valleys and Towns coalition. The meeting will be held at the Yreka Community Theater at 7 p.m. on Feb. 24.

Originally, SOSS mobilized farmers, ranchers and businesses in both Shasta and Scott Valleys in 2001, to stop the listing of the coho salmon to the state Endangered Species Act (ESA).

"We have established a positive position and we are known throughout the state and at the federal levels," said Ernie Wilkinson, SOSS vice-chairman.

Unfortunately, Green enviro politics played hard and heavy in Sacramento, and the coho was listed with the California ESA last August.

But the coho issue still remains hot, because the listing of the coho to the federal ESA has been ruled illegal by a federal judge; not once but twice recently. There are groups that are also seeking the same type of ruling at the state level.

Coho salmon status and "take" permit --

A panel of several speakers will share the stage providing information to those who utilize water for farms and ranches in Siskiyou County.

Along with the coho issue is the Incidental Take Permit, which SOSS leaders, local Resource Conservation Districts, county officials and California Department of Fish and Game employees have been working on, so there will be protection for basic agricultural practices from fines if a juvenile coho is found dead in an irrigation system. Fines of up to $20,000 could be levied for the "take" or killing of an animal listed with Endangered Species Acts.

Local farmers and ranchers have been working with the Resource Conservation Districts to improve habitat and provide fish screens in ditches and other diversions, so the juveniles will not swim into irrigation systems.

Signing on to the Incidental Take Permit will be voluntary, so farmers and ranchers need to know what is being offered. Bill Krum will address the Scott Valley permit and Blair Hart will address the status of the Shasta Valley permit.

Attorney’s involved in the Incidental Take Permit said this is a new standard. "They have never seen anything like this," said Krum.

Federal CIP committee --

Marcia Armstrong, county supervisor for District 5, will present the newest information regarding the Conservation Implementation Plan, or CIP, which is being pushed by the Klamath Bureau of Reclamation. The CIP will be a broad-based committee from the ocean to the upper reaches of the Klamath River. The committee will address and may affect flows in tributaries and the Klamath River.

Water master fee increase --

Then there is the water master fee issue. The state increased the fees for water master service last year. Through discussions and pressure applied by SOSS, Siskiyou County Administrator, Howard Moody, the Farm Bureau, Cattlemen Associations, there has been a one-year reprieve. Bill Bennett, a state-level official with the California Department of Water Resources was able to obtain funds from the Klamath Bureau of Reclamation to off-set a major portion of the increase in cost.

But some of those costs will increase in the coming year. A committee has been meeting to discuss alternatives. Blair Smith from Shasta Valley and Tony Francois from the California Farm Bureau will bring the Feb. 24th group up-to-date.

TMDLs will create regulations regarding water quality --

The Total Maximum Daily Load, known as TMDL, will also be discussed; because the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board will be setting standards for water quality in Siskiyou County streams. Temperature and sediment are considered by the state control board to "impair" the Shasta and Scott Rivers. Landowners have implemented projects to enhance water quality.





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