Sunday, November 25, 2007

Scott River Groundwater Study Plan Politics

Next to the PacifiCorp’s dams, the greatest impediment to restoring salmon, steelhead and a healthy Klamath River Basin may be the progressive dewatering of the Scott River. Unregulated groundwater pumping in the Scott Valley bottoms is likely directly connected to the steady decrease in Scott River flows (check here for a peer review study on this topic due out soon). Groundwater pumping in Scott Valley has increased dramatically with 99 irrigation pumps in 1976 and 228 in 2006. Irrigation pumps generally pump between 100 and 1,000 gallons per minute. Groundwater pumping now accounts for more than half of irrigation in the Scott River Basin.

The North Coast Water Board suspects that groundwater pumping is an important factor in low flows which are directly related to river water temperatures that are out of compliance with established water quality standards and which, in the Scott River, are much too warm to support salmon and other cold water fishes.

For this reason, the Water Board has provided funding to Siskiyou County – which has first jurisdiction over groundwater pumping – to complete a groundwater study designed to determine the impact of the pumping on river water temperature. But the draft study plan which has been prepared in response will unnecessarily delay finding the answer and is loaded with many other study objectives that are not necessary to determine the impact of pumping on river water temperature.

Klamath River restoration advocates are urging a more focused study that will provide an answer soon – before Chinook salmon are extirpated from most of the watershed as a result of dewatering and high water temperatures.

The Scott River Watershed Council – which along with Siskiyou County has resisted dealing with groundwater pumping impacts – has scheduled a meeting to get input on the groundwater study plan. Here are the details:

Scott River Watershed Council Meeting

November 27, 2007 @ 7:00 p.m.

Fort Jones Community Center

Topic: Scott Valley Groundwater Study Plan

Public Comment Encouraged

The Scott River Groundwater Study Plan is available as a 2 Mb .pdf document at the following address:

KlamBlog encourages those who desire a healthy Scott and Klamath River to attend the meeting and to contact the Northcoast Water Board which is funding the study. Please make the following points:

· The salmon can’t wait for a long-term groundwater study and such a study is not needed to provide the information which the Northcoast Waterboard needs to determine the impact of groundwater pumping on Scott River water temperature.

· The study must be narrowly focused on the information the Waterboard – which is providing 100% of the funding for the study – needs. If Siskiyou County wants additional information, they should seek it in a separate study and not delay addressing the problems that must be addressed to restore salmon and the Scott River.

· If Siskiyou County refuses to focus the study and shorten it to a reasonable amount of time, the Northcoast Waterboard should take back the funding and do the study themselves.

Send comments on the Scott River groundwater Study Plan to:

Please copy your comments to: and stay tuned - in the months ahead KlamBlog will review restoration efforts in the Scott River Watershed and attempt to answer the question: Should California Department of Fish & Game give Scott Valley ranchers and farmers a permit to "Take" Coho salmon?

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