Thursday, October 25, 2012

Illegal Irrigation in the Scott River Valley is blocking salmon access

Below is an emergency message to Governor Jerry Brown from KlamBlog editor and chief writer Felice Pace concerning the dewatering of the Scott River.  While many irrigators in the Scott and Shasta River Basins voluntarily stopped diverting water even for stock watering this year in order to help the largest recent run of migrating salmon reach their spawning grounds, some irrigators in the Scott Valley continue not only to divert stock water but also to irrigate pastures long after the irrigation season officially ended. 

One of the Siskiyou County irrigator groups which continues full diversion and wide-spread irrigation today is the Farmers Ditch in the Scott River Valley. As you will read below in Felice's letter to the governor, this ditch has a history of illegal and salmon killing operations. According to Felice, past inaction by state and federal officials in the face of lawbreaking by operators of the Farmers Ditch has encouraged continued lawlessness. Felice also points out that these irrigators are diverting the entire flow of Scott River - thereby dewatering the River and preventing salmon from reaching habitat that the State of California and the federal government spent many millions of dollars restoring. 

Farmers Ditch is not the only abuse of irrigation in the Scott River Valley which is hurting salmon; but it is the most egregious abuse. KlamBlog will publish a full report soon on how and why the largest run of salmon in recent history has been denied access to the best spawning and rearing habitat in the entire Scott River system. We will also focus in that report on the laws which state and federal officials refuse to enforce that could end persistent and flagrantly lawless water use by some Scott River agricultural operators.  At that time we will name names - identifying those in the agricultural community whose selfish, irresponsible and illegal actions are progressively extirpating Chinook Salmon from much of the Scott River Basin. 

Felice also supplied photos showing Farmers Ditch full of water, the illegal irrigation being done with that water and the dewatered Scott River below the diversion. Here are a few of those photos:

The Farmers Ditch running full on October 24th and the dewatered Scott River 
beyond. Irrigation was supposed to end in Scott Valley on October 15th. 

 One of a number of fields being illegally irrigated using Farmers Ditch

 Part of the Scott River which is being dewatered. Operators of 
the Farmers Ditch are diverting the entire flow of Scott River

 Salmon spawning habitat at the junction of Scott River's 
East Fork and South Fork. The entire flow of Scott River is 
being diverted into the Farmers Ditch below this point

Below is a copy of the web letter Felice sent to the governor:

October 25, 2012

Governor Jerry Brown
Via Web Form on Governor Brown’s Web Site

Dear Governor Brown,

Your intervention is needed immediately to prevent a tragedy in the Scott River Valley. A large number of Chinook Salmon are in the Scott River waiting to get to their spawning grounds. However, because the Farmers Ditch is running full at an estimated 6-8 cubic feet per second 10 full days after irrigation was supposed to end under the Scott River Adjudication,the Scott River is dewatered and disconnected in the area below the Farmer's Ditch is diverting the full flow of Scott River. 

Unless this ditch is turned down or off soon, Chinook salmon will not be able to spawn in the Upper Scott River, the east Fork, the South Fork, Sugar Creek, Wildcat Creek and several other tributaries. Spawning and production fro the largest run in recent history will be lost. The benefit of millions of dollars the state and federal government has spent restoring habitat above the Farmer's Ditch will be rendered useless and ineffective. This is something you can and should stop.

Irrigators along the Farmers Ditch are using the pretext of a stock-watering right to continue irrigation far beyond the legal irrigation season. I have pictures showing that some of the fields being irrigated do not even have livestock in them. I also have pictures of the full ditch and the dewatered river below this diversion. I am going to send those to the press this morning along with a copy of this message to you. If you will supply me with an e-mail address that will get noticed, I'll send those pictures to you too.

For years I and others have been asking your Department of Water Resources, your Department of Fish & Game and the State Water Resources Control Board which you appoint to address this abusive and intentional lawbreaking. A few years ago, I presented a PowerPoint to the SWRCB which showed illegal, out of season irrigation being done from this very ditch.

A few years ago this ditch was turned on in the Spring in a manner that dewatered the Scott River below the diversion. Several hundred thousand Salmon and Steelhead died as a result, including listed Coho Salmon. While state officials knew about this and referred the ditch manager to the DA, only a slap on the wrist resulted and the matter was not reported to or by the press. In this way, state officials and the DA countenanced lawbreaking and thereby encouraged that lawbreaking - and the dewatering of the river - to continue.

In spite of numerous attempts over the past ten years to get responsible officials to do their sworn duties in order to stop the illegal irrigation and illegal use of this ditch in violation of several Water and Fish & Game Codes, these officials have done nothing.That is why I am contacting you in hopes that you will take action to help the Scott River Salmon and all the other water users who suffer bad publicity because of the illegal actions of this one irrigation district or private group of irrigators, i.e. those who control the Farmers Ditch in the Scott River Basin.

Please, please take action quick for the Salmon and the People.

Via Web Form
Felice Pace

Help Scott River Salmon reach their spawning grounds by joining Felice's call to Governor Brown. Ask the governor to end the lawless Farmers Ditch diversion and free the Scott River Salmon so that taxpayer restoration investments are not wasted.

Contact Governor Brown via web form at this link or call, fax or write to:

                                Governor Jerry Brown
                                c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
                                Sacramento, CA 95814

                                Phone: (916) 445-2841
                                Fax: (916) 558-3160

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Lessons from Klamath History: A tribute to Petey Brucker

On Saturday October 6th the Salmon River Restoration Council celebrated twenty years of work to sustain and restore the watersheds and communities of the Salmon River Basin, aka the Cal Salmon.Check out the excellent report on the event written by Two Rivers Tribune reporter Malcolm Terrance at this link.

A highlight of the event was a tribute to SRRC founder and long time executive director Petey Brucker. Three of Petey's closest compadres - Felice Pace, Ron Reed and Jennifer Silvera - spoke about the contributions which Petey has made over the years to the human and ecological communities of the Salmon River and Klamath River Basin.The staff then presented Petey with a plaque of appreciation. Dominating the plaque is a Spring Chinook Salmon in high relief.      

Reproduced below is the tribute to Petey which KlamBlog editor and chief writer Felice Pace produced for the event. Due to time constraints, Felice could only summarize the tribute at the celebration. KlamBlog presents it here because the tribute recounts important events in the People's History of Klamath Country. 

Our culture discourages historical memory. Perhaps that is part of why we seem to repeat the same mistakes over and over. KlamBlog believes it is only possible to truly understand current events if we view them within an accurate historical context. We hope you enjoy and learn not only from Petey's example but also portions of the People's History recounted by Felice in his tribute to Petey Brucker published for the very first time below.


Community Man: A tribute to Petey Brucker 
by Felice Pace   

          When I was asked to speak here about my friend Petey it took me all of a second to accept the invitation. Not surprising really – older folks like to go on and on and I have never been accused of being shy or reticent when it comes to public speaking. The truth is, however, that there is very little that can give me more pleasure than to tell folks about my friend Petey and especially about the history we shared together.

Petey takes a rare break at Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge

A big part of that history is the founding of both the Klamath Forest Alliance (KFA) and the Salmon River Restoration Council (SRRC) and the events that led Petey, myself and several other folks – most from the Salmon River - to create those organizations. Some of you may not realize that it was KFA which provided the support Petey needed to create SRCC. Some probably don’t know that it was also KFA – in support of Cynthia Poten’s vision – which created Klamath Riverkeeper. That is KFA’s mission – to support progressive activists in going for and realizing their hopes and visions. Please understand that KFA is still there and still available to a new generation of activists to help you realize your hopes, dreams and visions in service to the community of all living beings.  

But let’s get back to the story.

For me the beginning was the herbicide wars. I suspect it is difficult if not impossible for those of you who did not live through it to understand and appreciate what it was like back then for those of us who lived in homesteads and communities surrounded by national forest land. We could hardly believe it ourselves. Many of us had fought hard to end the Vietnam War; we had decried the use of Agent Orange on the land and people of Vietnam. We won an end to that war only to find that the chemicals and helicopters – the war itself - had come home – the chemicals we decried when used in Vietnam were now being used against us!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fragmentation and Commercialization on the Klamath: Why greed and self-aggrandizement are in the ascendancy

It was not too long ago that those seeking restoration of the Klamath River and Klamath Salmon acted with one purpose – if not with one voice. That unity of purpose and action was not an accident; it was the product of many years of hard work forging partnerships and trust, formal and informal coalitions.

Unity on behalf of Salmon and the River was the key ingredient leading to the first ever reallocation of water from agriculture to in-stream uses in Klamath Country. Unity also played a key role in securing an order for fish ladders on PacifiCorp’s Klamath River dams; it is that requirement which rendered the Klamath Hydroelectric Project an annual money loser if relicensed.  And that, in turn, led to PacifiCorp seeking a dam removal deal.

 In 2004 united tribes, enviros and fishermen lined Rt 101 in Eureka and packed 
a hearing to pressure FERC to order removal of PacifiCorp's Klamath River Dams

United action by those seeking river and salmon restoration exposed contradictions in the disparate mandates of federal agencies. For the Bureau of Reclamation the mission is simple and direct: to serve the irrigators to whom it supplies water; for National Marine Fisheries and the US Fish and Wildlife Services the mission is to protect fish – especially those species listed as threatened and endangered pursuant to the federal Endangered Species Act. The coalition of tribes, enviros and fishermen, emphasized the contradictions in federal agency missions and mandates in strong challenges to federal management of Klamath water. 

Federal bureaucrats leading these agencies’ Klamath River Basin offices became desperate for a means to resolve the contradictions in mission and water management as they were playing out in Klamath Country.  Visionary leaders among those bureaucrats hatched a plan and sold it to their superiors. The feds proceeded to bring together various “interests” to resolve demands for Klamath water in a way which would also resolve the conflicting Klamath mandates of federal agencies.