Timber companies and other landowners who log are now required to maintain shade along streams, develop erosion control plans and comply with waste discharge requirements. While road, landslide and riparian management problems remain, the four large timber companies operating in the Scott Sub-Basin are moving to satisfy at least the letter of compliance with the Plan. Road management in particular has continued to improve.
A timber company logging road in Scott Valley left open all winter long
Environmental and recreation interests want farmers and ranchers to also be required to retain shade on streams running through their property and to stop livestock from trampling streambanks and defecating in streambeds. Native, sport and commercial fishermen want farmers and ranchers to limit water use in order to keep stream temperature from becoming lethal to salmon and other fish.
So far, however, the North Coast Board has refused to put teeth behind the Clean-Up Plan’s requirements and prohibitions. Instead, on August 9, 2006 the Board adopted a “waiver of waste discharge requirements” for Scott River Basin agriculture.
The Scott Ag Waiver embraces the concept of voluntary compliance (sic) and is implemented through Ag-friendly groups like the Siskiyou RCD and Scott River Watershed Council. That has been the approach for the past four plus years. The waiver has a five year term and sunsets in August. The North Coast Board must either renew the waiver or take other regulatory action with respect to Scott River Basin agricultural operations. And while there has been no systematic evaluation to determine whether voluntary compliance is working, it appears that McFadden and his supervisors are prepared to continue to back the approach favored by the Scott Valley Establishment.
At the urging of Scott Valley agricultural and other leaders, McFadden organized two meetings in the Scott Valley last week. They were designed to convince members of the North Coast Water Quality Board that voluntary compliance is working and therefore that a new waiver should be granted. One North Coast Board member attended as did KlamBlog. So did several members of the local Scott Valley Tea Party which is also known as Protect Our Waters or POW. POW appears to be against clean water regulation as a matter of principle; several T Party speakers challenged the right of government to regulate private property in any manner.
KlamBlog reports on the two workshops below - including how the Scott Valley Establishment tried to persuade North Coast board members that voluntary compliance is working.
The Scott Valley Tea Party Protests Water Quality Regulation and the UN
Day 1: Scott Valley Groundwater Study
On Wednesday April 20th, Dr Thomas Harter of the University of California Extension provided an update on the groundwater model he and his UC Davis students are developing. The model is required by the Scott Clean-Up Plan in order to understand the impact of groundwater pumping on stream flow and stream temperature. Flow and temperature are related – more flow usually lowers stream water temperature; less flow typically results in higher stream water temperature.
Currently the US Forest Service does not receive the adjudicated in-stream flows in the Scott River below Scott Valley to which it has a right even in years of average precipitation and snow pack. Those flows were established to sustain Scott River fisheries. A recent peer reviewed scientific study found that more than half the loss of Scott River flow in recent decades cannot be explained by changes in precipitation and snowpack and are most likely related to a doubling in irrigation pumping from groundwater in the Scott River Valley since 1960. If done properly, the groundwater model should help quantify the impact increased groundwater pumping has had on Scott River stream temperature. It will also be useful in modeling the changes in stream temperature which would occur if measures are taken to increase Scott River flows.
Dr. Harter’s study has been delayed which suits Scott Valley Ag folks. Delay is a tactic which has proven effective for agricultural interests in their nation-wide quest to avoiding complying with clean water laws. It is a prime reason why agricultural pollution is now (along with urban run-off) the #1 source of pollution in most US rivers and their estuaries nearly 35 years after the Clean Water Act became the law of the land.
While the groundwater study is not complete, Dr. Harter and his students have made several interesting discoveries. One is that groundwater flow in the Scott River Valley is toward the River – in particular from the mountains to the west. Another is that there are sections of Scott River which still gain water from groundwater springs while many other sections loose water to groundwater.
Harter also found that groundwater flow in the vicinity of the River is parallel to the River and runs downstream. This is significant in that, under California law, “underground streams” are considered to be surface water and therefore can be regulated whereas groundwater not running in an underground stream is not subject to state regulation.
Was the boundary of the underground stream running along with Scott River properly delineated during the Scott River Adjudication? Even cursory study of the Adjudication maps suggests that the boundary line was politically rather than scientifically drawn. For example, at its widest the zone of interconnected groundwater is ¼ mile on each side of Scott River. However, at times the line is right on the River’s bank. Furthermore, the line dips toward the River to exclude certain irrigation wells and away from the River to include certain other irrigation wells.
While evidence is mounting that the interconnected groundwater boundary in the Scott Adjudication was improperly drawn, information from Harter’s modeling, however, like previous USGS reports, confirms that groundwater in the Scott Valley is broadly connected to surface flow. That means groundwater pumping anywhere in Scott Valley can diminish streamflow if enough water is removed and the groundwater level drops below the streambed’s level. The Harter-UC Extension study should help better define the interconnection of River and groundwater and thereby help determine the impact of groundwater pumping on Scott River flow and temperature.
Day 2: Showcasing the good guys
The second day’s workshop was devoted to showcasing good stewardship as practiced in the Scott River Valley. Several ranchers made PowerPoint presentations showing what they have done to reduce the impact of their operations on fisheries and water quality. Two of the family ranches located along Scott River invited interested folks to come out and see what has been done first hand; one ranch is applying for "Salmon Safe" certification. While much of the showcased stewardship work was funded by the government, some farmers have done good stewardship work on their own without outside assistance. It was clear from the presentations that there are a number of farmers and ranchers in the Scott River Valley who really do care about water quality and beneficial uses, want to do the right thing. These folks devote considerable thought and energy toward real stewardship.
Also presenting were folks working with the timber industry to reduce road sediment and county officials who are updating the Siskiyou County development manual to address grading issues. Staff of the Siskiyou RCD presented their work as did the Siskiyou Water Trust which leases water from irrigators to provide flows for Coho. Some fish advocates oppose leasing water to mitigate low flows and stream dewatering because the fish already have a right to the water they need.
Missing from the presentations was any discussion of those agricultural management practices common in the Scott Valley which contribute to sedimentation, low flows and high Scott River water temperature. Nor was there anything said about how the RCD and Watershed Council hope to persuade those who are clearly not good land stewards to “voluntarily” comply with the Scott Clean-up Plan. How will those who plow right down to the stream, for example, be convinced to voluntarily move back and establish riparian shade?
Removing riparian vegetation and plowing right down to the streambank is a common practice in the Scott River Valley which contributes to abnormally high water temperature and excessive sedimentation
Unmentioned also were irrigation ditches run full all year, feeding cattle and piling their manure right next to live streams and allowing cattle to trample streambanks. It was as if the poor management so blatantly evident just a mile or so from the Fort Jones meeting location did not exist!
KlamBlog has documented these problems in previous posts and we documented more in a recent trip to the Scott which will appear in a future post. We will continue to present these problems so that they cannot be ignored. And we will continue to ask the Scott Valley Establishment and the North Coast Board staff to explain just how they intend to get those who vehemently refuse to take any responsibility for maintaining water quality to voluntarily comply with the Scott River Clean-Up Plan, that is, with the LAW.