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


TC/Trout Underground said...

Thanks for the information. In an email County Resource Manager Costales said that diversions had been turned off early in October, and that people should talk to officials before posting their "personal diatribes."

Good advice, but given the fact we keep hearing that nothing is being diverted and then learn that it is, well...

Anonymous said...

There are inaccuracies in the blog. First and Formost: most of the flow of EastvFork and South Fork goes into Tailings BEFORE the Farmers Ditch Diversion. Second: Their water rights are year round, not that they should be excersizing them this time of year under these circumstance. Even if they were not diverting the river would still be dry in photo.

Felice Pace said...

The Scott River Valley is filled with sand and gravel. A portion of surface flow does sink into groundwater - or in this case - into an underground flow.

That is ALWAYS going to happen and is not a justification for taking the entire remaining surface flow.

There are also springs at various locations along the River which add flow.