Saturday, January 23, 2010

Siskiyou County Supervisors seek Diane Feinstein’s help to deliver their anti-environmental message

Siskiyou County Supervisors like Congressional Earmarks – at lest that is what one would conclude from looking at a list of funding earmark requests which they voted recently to forward to California Senator Diane Feinstein. They want DiFi to get them $6 billion for one water project and $10.5 million for 4 other projects.

All the projects have an environmental and regulatory nexus. Apparently the Siskiyou County Supervisors think the federal government should be responsible for funding Siskiyou County’s compliance with environmental laws and regulations it has at times ignored and at other times attacked viciously.

Below is an article from the Siskiyou Daily News concerning these requests for funding "earmarks" here is what they are requesting:

  • The top request is funding for a facility to receive and dispose of sludge pumped from septic systems in the county. The North Coast Water Quality Board ordered the present disposal site closed after Klamath Riverkeeper threatened to sue the county because the facility was being operated without a permit and without monitoring whether human waste is contaminating groundwater at the site.
  • A request for $2 million for a “Klamath River fish disease study” appears to be motivated by a desire to undermine the science on Klamath River fish diseases - possibly to challenge dam removal or the Klamath River Water Pollution Clean Up Plan (TMDL) being developed by the North Coast Water Board. Last year Thompson and Feinstein got the USFWS an earmark for Klamath River fish disease studies. That money, however, went to the US Fish and Wildlife Service which has been studying Klamath fish diseases since the disastrous die-off of an estimated 60,000 plus adult salmon during the 2001 salmon spawning migration.
  • The big ticket item is a request for $6 billion to build the "Shasta Valley Diversion" - an attempt to provide surface irrigation water to farmers and ranchers who currently pump groundwater in the Shasta River Valley.
Klamath River activist Felice Pace has suggested that a Klamath River Diversion could be substituted for the unreliable irrigation water supply from Dwinnell Reservoir (aka Lake Shastina). This would clear the way for removal of Dwinnell Dam which blocks salmon passage and is associated with the extirpation of Spring Chinook Salmon from the Shasta River watershed.

But the Siskiyou Supervisors want to give that water to farmers who now rely on groundwater. It is unclear whether Siskiyou County would require that farmers receiving that water agree not to pump groundwater. While developers must prove no impact before they are allowed to extract more water, groundwater pumping for irrigation is unregulated in Siskiyou County. In the Scott Valley the Siskiyou RCD and Klamath EQIP have funded new stockwater and irrigation wells without requiring relinquishment or forbearance agreements on stream and river diversions.

It is also unclear whether Siskiyou County or anyone else could successfully obtain a right to divert more Klamath River Water. Such permits must be granted by the California State Water Resources Board.

The Siskiyou Daily quotes the Siskiyou Supervisors as being skeptical that Ms. Feinstein will take on their wish list. One supervisor thought it was too long and in cases unrelated to federal actions and programs. From this it appears that Siskiyou County’s supervisors are mainly interested in delivering a political message to the state’s senior senator. Senator Feinstein sits on the Appropriations Committee; if she wants an earmark, it usually happens.

KlamBlog would like to know if other Klamath River Basin Counties are making earmark requests to Congress. If you have the information please share it by making a comment on this post or sending the information to KlamBlog by another means.

Here’s the article from the Siskiyou Daily News:

Shortened county ‘wish list’ to go to Feinstein’s office

By David Smith

Daily News

Fri Jan 22, 2010, 10:16 AM PST

Yreka, Calif. -

The Siskiyou County Supervisors’ list of requests for Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s earmark appropriations has been pared down and approved by the board, with a list of five priority projects set to make the trip to Feinstein’s office.

The projects were ordered according to the priority assigned by the supervisors in conjunction with County Administrative Officer Brian McDermott.

First on the list is a request for $4 million to create a sludge receiving facility. The need for a new facility, according to the list, arises from the recent closure of the county’s existing facility by the state’s water quality control board for failing to meet state guidelines for septage ponds.

The list states that the project would consist of constructing a new facility or partnering with a municipality that may be able to modify an existing sewage treatment facility.

The number two priority is $2 million for a Klamath River fish disease study, with the Scott River Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Direct Inventory of Roads and Treatments implementation on county-maintained roads taking the third spot.

That project, for which $6 million is requested, would repair and upgrade roads in the Scott River watershed that have been identified by the Scott River TMDL as potential sediment sources affecting anadromous fish populations.

Priorities four and five are the Siskiyou County Airport Infrastructure Improvement Plan and the Shasta Valley Diversion, with the requested amounts at $3,500,000 and $1 billion, respectively.

The airport project justification listed reads, “The Siskiyou County Airport is a former WWII military base that serves as the primary airport for commercial aviation activities in the county.

“This project would replace 50 year old water and wastewater systems to better facilitate commercial development of this county asset.”

The Shasta Valley Diversion would include the construction of a diversion from Iron Gate Dam to the Shasta Valley that would carry 60,000 acre-feet of water for the Siskiyou County Water Conservation and Flood Control District. The list suggests that the Klamath River’s warm and nutrient-rich water could potentially increase agriculture production by 50 percent and allow four irrigation districts to access a non-groundwater supply.

Board Chair Marcia Armstrong said that the Siskiyou Resource Conservation District (RCD) had presented her with a list of small projects that could be added to the number three priority to address such issues as diversions, riparian fencing and upland sediment management, among other issues.

District 1 Supervisor Jim Cook said that he still felt that sending a long list of requests would not work and that the board should focus on finding projects with a “federal connection.” He added that the list, as presented, would be like “sending a list to Santa Claus.”

District 2 Supervisor Ed Valenzuela also expressed reservations about sending a list with a high number of requests.

Armstrong, responding to Cook, said that a number of the requests on the list are for projects that would bring the county into compliance with a number of federal regulations, including the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act, among others.

District 3 Supervisor Michael Kobseff said, “We need to educate Washington on our needs and lack of funding,” saying that he feels the earmark request period is an opportunity to possibly receive funding to meet regulations that the county is struggling to meet on its own.

District 4 Supervisor Grace Bennett continued that sentiment, saying that she does not believe that any of the projects will be approved, but  thinks it will show we are aware of the issues and our limitations in addressing them.

The motion was put forward to approve sending priorities one through five, with number three amended to add the Siskiyou RCD suggestions. The board approved the list 4-1, with Cook voting no. He did state afterward that he would be willing to meet with Feinstein’s staff in order to emphasize the federal connection of the projects and to see how the senator’s office assesses the requests.  

1 comment:

Jackie said...

Dear KlamBlog,

My name is Jackie Wellbaum. I appreciate your street-level (read: war-zone) coverage of Siskiyou County politics--especially characters such as Marcia Armstrong who writes wish-lists to Santa as early as January, shamelessly requesting Billions of dollars from Washington (via the postal address of Santa’s helper Diane Feinstein). The same “gimmy-gimmy-girl”—yes Marcia Armstrong—discusses the importance of developing local strategy to welcome new industries to the region in her October 12th article published by the Siskiyou Daily News. Where are Ms. Armstrong’s rosy suggestions for the collection of actionable economic data which might point to ways Siskiyou County could be re-habbed off its deadly addiction to outside, un-earned dollars and welcome legitimate new industries?

Here is the quote I received via e-mail from Ms. Armstrong after pleading with the Siskiyou B.O.S. for any available economic development grant funds:

"Siskiyou County has no 'grant' funds. We are closing libraries and have laid off 25% of our General Fund staff in the past three years. It appears that we are also $8 million in the hole on mental health services."

No hello. No goodbye. Don’t they teach salutation at Supervisor school? Well, eventually I received the following warm response: “I think we're done here....” Is that how she talks to Santa when she’s bored with all the new dams and bridges he brings to her County?

I helpfully suggested to Ms. Armstrong that perhaps she could work with forward-looking counties (equally cash-strapped) such as Humboldt to adopt new, innovative and job-creating cannabis ordinances. Given her district 5 location at the tip of the state and bordering on Oregon (a very pot-friendly place), only a lack of creativity at the County Supervisor and local levels would prevent Siskiyou County from leveraging it's perfect agricultural and geographic location to incubate businesses that specialize in producing, processing, packaging and exporting an increasingly de-criminalized natural resource, including hemp. I even gave Ms. Armstrong the e-mail addresses of some of her Board of Supervisor peers over thar yonder in Humboldt. Perty nice I reckunn'd.

As we know, the cannabis policy-climate seems to be changing faster than accurate, local cannabis industry data emerges. Few politicians have a crystal ball, as do few constituents struggling to roll with the latest economic realities. Accurate metrics on regional and local cannabis industry performance and promise will significantly aid county elected officials in contributing toward state-wide leadership on effective cannabis policy. My position is that we must stop making California cannabis policy decisions in a data-vacuum.

In the end I asked that Ms. Armstrong simply cooperate with my Siskiyou County cannabis industry data collection efforts. After all, cooperation with economic data collectors isn’t like building a dam. Unlike you Ms. Armstrong, cooperation is free.

Jackie Wellbaum is a pharmaceutical industry regulatory affairs professional living in Northern California. Contact via e-mail at: JWellbaum@ Gmail. Com.