Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.


by Marcia Armstrong, Siskiyou County Supervisor 5/20/11

Big Picture Part 3: The Re-Wilding of Siskiyou County

In 1980, the “World Conservation Strategy” was formulated. The strategy was incorporated into the 1992 international Convention (Treaty) on Biological Diversity, which was signed by President Clinton, but never ratified by the Senate. At the Earth Summit in 1992, signatory nations agreed to the “Agenda 21” program of actions. The Clinton Administration proceeded to implement treaty and Agenda 21 agreements internally. Federal agencies implemented the concepts of GAP analysis,  “biosphere reserves,” “ecosystem management” and “sustainable development.”  http://users.sisqtel.net/armstrng/agenda21.htm


The strategy of conservation biology is to preserve core wild areas surrounded by buffer areas where uses are restricted to protect the characteristics of the core reserves. Reserves are connected by broad biodiversity corridors regionally and by continental linkages. Areas outside of the core reserves and buffer zones are designated as transition zones, where “institutional protection” by regulation or permanent conservation easements are sought. The 1993 Northwest Forest Plan followed the pattern setting aside core Late Successional Reserves (LSRs) and surrounding matrix (buffer) lands. At the same time, under a “watershed” approach, state regulation of forestry on adjacent private lands was increased (transition areas.) The remaining areas consist of urban areas managed as “sustainable communities” under “smart growth principles.” In California, smart growth is being implemented under efforts to reduce global warming under AB 32.


Roadless areas, Wilderness bills, National Monuments, Wild and Scenic Rivers designations, “Travel management Plans,” the new Dept. of Interior “Wild Lands” policy and President Obama’s “Treasured Landscapes” agenda are all efforts to re-wild large core areas. http://users.sisqtel.net/armstrng/monument.htm


GAP analysis - the mapping of  the status of species compared with maps of land ownership and “protected status”- have given Wild Lands Project activists a blueprint to target their protection efforts. In Siskiyou County, environmentalists used the federally listed sucker fish and coho salmon strategically to squeeze water rights from upper Klamath Basin agriculture and to force the retirement of farmland and rewilding to wetlands. Satisfaction of minimum lake levels for suckers and minimum flows for salmon left farmers holding an empty bucket in 2001 when, despite the water delivery priorities established under the interstate Klamath Compact, the ESA trump card was played. Biological opinions have been used since to limit irrigation water to farmers. Under the recent Klamath Basin Restoration Act, 30,000 acre feet will be taken from Upper Klamath Lake, requiring the fallowing of off-Project farming land.


In 1997, the federal government listed the Coho salmon as threatened. California followed. The coho was likely selected by activists as an indicator species because, after emergence from its egg, it remains in the rivers for more than a year. This has provided opportunity for year round control of land and water use.


The coho salmon (and potentially Chinook salmon) is currently being used to take control of irrigation water in the Scott and Shasta Valleys. According to local watermasters, new 10 inch bypass pipes installed by the Department of Fish and Game at irrigation structures are now delivering an average of 38% of diverted water to farms and are sending 62% of the water back to the stream. This will become of greater concern as the summer proceeds and the irrigators are presumably allowed even less. They have also just recently decided that irrigators should bear the full cost of watermaster service. This will result in up to a seven fold increase in costs to the irrigator .   


New state interpretations on requirements for watershed-wide 1602 streambed alteration permits for headgate operation forced compliance with an onerous programmatic ITP, which would have required the uncompensated donation of irrigation water as a condition of the permit. Now that activists have eliminated the programmatic permit, individual farmers are faced with prohibitively expensive permit studies and processing costs if they seek a permit. Activists have also sued Siskiyou County to force it to regulate groundwater (well) use in the Scott Valley in order to protect “Public Trust” obligations for fish.


In 1996, environmental activists initiated the “17 Rivers” lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and State Water Resources Control Board to force imposition of Total Maximum Daily Load limits under the Clean Water Act on the Klamath River and its tributaries for non-point source pollution. “Pollution” included temperature, nutrients, low dissolved oxygen and sediment. In its second phase, new basin-wide permit requirements s for irrigation, riparian impact and ranching are just around the corner. 


After a series of unsuccessful lawsuits, the process for establishing new suction dredge mining permits has been abruptly halted for five years by the CA legislature to “save money.” As mineral rights and claims are valuable private property, the State is telling owners that they simply cannot use their property any more.


It is all about control.

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              Page Updated: Friday May 20, 2011 02:20 AM  Pacific

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