recent posts on Scott River conditions and history have prompted several comments and questions
Joe G said:
Felice, Another well researched story. I also enjoy Chris Peters view of the agreement. For your next story, I wonder how long has it been since there were more natural flows in the Scott? Is it just the fourth crop of alfalfa, or are there other factors that have changed in the
Hope the predicted rainfall this week helps these fish get upstream. Meanwhile, I will stay tuned to Klamblog. Keep up the good work Felice! Joe
Felice P responds:
Dear Joe G,
The dewatering of the Scott began in the Gold Rush era (1850s) when miners dewatered the river with dams to wash soil for gold. It let up when the Gold Rush ebbed but the settlers who had come to raise cattle and grain to feed the miners diverted the river's flow and that of tributaries.
Extensive pumping of groundwater for irrigation began about 1960 and has increased steadily since then - especially in the late 70s and 80s. For example, in the 50s the entire Lower Moffett Creek Watershed was dry farmed (this is the area along both sides of State Route 3 between the town of
This history is why I speak of the "progressive dewatering" of the
Ken Maurer who was a member of the Scott River CRMP and Marble Mountain Audubon mapped late summer and fall flows in the Scott (USGS data) by decade going back to the 40s when the flow gauge below the
I believe this reality is illegal under several laws - most notably Fish & Game Code 5937, the Wild and Sxcenic Rivers Act (lower
The responsible state and federal officials know this but they don't have the guts to do anything about it. I believe they are morally - if not criminally - negligent.
As for the solution, I believe these are the elements:
The judge erred in the Scott Valley Adjudication Decree and this needs to be corrected.
2. Groundwater must be regulated otherwise those who loose surface rights will just switch to groundwater. Currently
3. We need a Klamath BASIN WIDE FLOW ASSESSMENT as recommended by the second independent science report from the National Research Council. That flow assessment would determine the flows actually needed for fish in the Scott and throughout the
On your last question: There is indeed another way to water cattle. As part of the Scott Valley CRMP I worked to establish an alternative stock watering system whereby we gave smaller wells and pumps (sometimes solar pumps with solar panels) to livestock owners so that they would not need to divert surface flow in winter. Unfortunately the Siskiyou RCD did not require that those receiving these taxpayer funded systems agree not to divert outside irrigation season. As a result most of these livestock producers use the wells but still divert and still allow their cattle access to the river.
It is a sad tale colored by corruption but there it is.
Below you will find an article titled “Death of a Lady” about the
KlamBlog doesn’t know if the article was ever published. We do know that irrigation interests in the
This article, written by Jim Denny for a fishing magazine in the mid to late 1970s, is about
The Death of a Lady
By Jim Denny
In the world of the fisherman, a stream is always of the feminine gender. This situation exists because the only part of his life more important to him than fishing is his wife.
The lady I am going to tell you about lives in
The first white person fortunate enough to see this beauty with his own eyes was Thomas McKay, who came through the area for the Hudson Bay Company in about 1830. McKay must have been taken by our lady’s charms, for in 1836, ,he returned with Stephen Meek to trap beaver. In one month they secured 1800 pelts.
McKay and Meek called the home of our lady
Let’s picture, fellow fisherman, what McKay and Meek actually viewed in the valley they called Beaver. It is 1836. The valley is thirty-five miles long, five to seven miles wide, with an almost completely level floor. The north end of the valley is a solid mass of beaver ponds and willows. The south end is grassy meadows, oak, pine, poplar, cottonwood, birch, alders, and willows. The mountains around the valley are forested in pine, fir and cedars.
Besides the fur-bearing animals in the valley, quail, grouse, geese, ducks and deer are everywhere. In 1855, the commanding officer at
This vale of beauty, then, is the home of our heroine,
It is granted that the home of our lady was a house of the utmost splendor and grandeur in 1836. What, then, clogged the sluice boxes, got in the way in the irrigation ditches, smelled up the fields when they died, and on top of that, killed half the dogs.
I remember when my Dad wanted smoked steelhead, he merely went out into the fields where he was irrigating, picked up twenty to thirty downstreamers, and took them to the smokehouse. This was in March and April. In June and July, the salmon smolts came down the ditch in such numbers that the ground was white, as they lay in death after the water was turned off.
Calvin Ball used to drive his spring wagon right into French Creek. It then took him all of thirty minutes to pitchfork in a load of spawning silvers. Then he fed them to the pigs.
Most of the ranchers also liked salted steelhead. Jack Timons told me they used to take a spring wagon, -gallon barrels, one man with a pine torch, and two men with spears, and also go to French Creek, only at night. At the most, it took them two hours to fill the barrels with de-headed, cleaned, spawning steelhead. That gave them enough salted steelhead to last the whole year. This size crew could spear two months on French Creek today and not cover the bottom of one barrel.
Bill Burcell tells me the spring run of steelhead in Etna Creek was so great you couldn’t see the bottom of the creek for their green backs. Today it’s a problem to see one fish.
When the Miles family wanted fish, they took silvers from Miners Creek. Bill and Albert went with their Dad. Each had a spear. Their Dad would point out which fish to spear. Albert says it took them an hour to get enough selected salmon to last a year. Today the number of silver salmon in Miners Creek is zero.
Yes, our lady’s arteries and veins were glutted with fish. The silvers came from September 20 to the first of November. The kings came from October 1 to December 15. The steelhead started October 1 and ended June 1. The German brown ran in Shackleford Creek in April and May.
On top of all these anadromous fish,
The tributaries all had large populations of their own sub-species of rainbows. Kidder Creek had Dolly Vardon in its upper reaches.
Today, Fish and Game says five-thousand steelhead, one-thousand silvers, and eight-thousand kings come into
I question Fish and Game’s figures on steelhead. I suggest that the present run is twenty-thousand. I think they are accurate on the kings and high on silvers. For all practical purposes, the native rainbows and the silver salmon run are gone.
Why then has our magnificent, bounteous lady become a slattern in complete disarray? The answer is simple. The white settlers raped, ravished, beat, punished and choked our lady to within an inch of her life. That she even breathes is a miracle.
I estimate that
The early settlers, in their quest for profit, whether through mining, farming, or logging, completely disregarded the effects of their actions on their environment.
Let’s spell out the actions as they occurred, that changed our lady from the “Helen of Troy” of her time, to the guttersnipe she is today.
The trappers did not harm
Some time around 1880, a rock barrier was put in
After the miners took their best punches at our lady, the farmers took over, and unfortunately, they are still at it. Before I detail the traumatic effect farming had on the fish, let me explain the geography of the Valley.
When Meek and McKay first viewed
Let’s check what one-hundred years of farming did to this great fishery. The farmers first drained all the beaver ponds. This eliminated hundreds of acres of nursery area for young salmonids, as well as habitat for large native rainbows.
Next, the farmers cleared all the trees and other vegetation from the land, including the east side gulches. The rainfall was originally adequate. Ditches usually were not necessary. With the clearing of trees and vegetation, the rainfall on the east side of
Of the twenty-two streams producing fish on the east side of the Valley one-hundred years ago, only five have any fish at all. McConaughy Gulch is a typical example. It supported, before 1890, ten dairy ranches. They all had enough water, and there was a total of thirty miles of fish habitat. Today the gulch supports no operating ranches. It has no fish habitat.
With the declining rainfall, the farmers put in more and more ditches. Today there are over two-hundred irrigation ditches in
Sprinkler irrigation is now the vogue. It is more efficient. Less water irrigates more land. This should help the fish. Not so for our forlorn lady. So many wells have been put in on the valley floor of the lower part of
So much for the farmers. In 1934, politics reared its ugly head in the form of the WPA. For those of you too young to know, it was a make-work program. The intentions were good. The results were a disaster.
They took our stumbling enchantress and gave her the permanent strip-tease treatment. They started at Callahan, went right down the river, up and down the tributaries, and took out all the vegetation.
As if this weren’t enough, in 1937, mining reared its ugly head again in the form of the Yuba Dredging Company. Between 1937 and 1951, they completely destroyed four miles of
The next sledge hammer punch to the solar plexus of our staggering lady, was the biggest housing boom the
Our lady is lying in her sick bed. Her condition, to say the least, is precarious. In her unprotected state, the floods of 1955, 1964, and 1973 have left her on the brink of death.
Hail to the once proud queen of the west!
The death of the
The loss to the economic vitality of the pacific slope due to the decline of anadromous fish is in the billions of dollars. For every fish not there, some sportsman can’t fish and doesn’t buy any tackle, or spend any money on transportation, lodging and meals. Somebody who wants fresh salmon in a butcher shop can’t buy it, because the commercial fisherman had to quit fishing.
It is a never-ending chain reaction.
The point is: Do you want to get off your duff and do something, or are you willing to let fishing for anadromous fish become a folk tale?
 In recent years, a few Coho salmon have been documented in Miners Creek, particularly in a section where the landowner has allowed the riparian area to reforest.