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 6/4/12

Battered Communities: I have just finished writing a white paper on the saga of the systematic war against agriculture in Siskiyou County. HERE or HERE > http://users.sisqtel.net/armstrng/IWRM%20siskiyou%20part1.htm

After spending a month in research on water issues in the Klamath, there is no doubt in my mind that this is exactly what it is. The paper chronicles the relentless series of lawsuits by fishermen, environmentalists and tribes to reduce water available for irrigation in the upper Klamath Basin. It shows the use of the Clean Water Act Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) to render agriculture a “permitted” activity controlled and curtailed by the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.

It shows the CA Dept of Fish and Game’s efforts to take water from pre-1914 water right holders through the 1602 streambed alteration agreement, coho incidental take permit and flow studies. Then there are the repeated attempts to create a “basinwide” governance structure, such as the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, where unelected bureaucrats, tribes and environmentalists will write restoration plans, reallocating water from farmers to the environment.

It is a lengthy chronicle. As one reader of the paper wrote me: “The inflicted tragedy is almost beyond belief, except that I know it is all true. “

The latest items in the lengthy saga are: (1) the lawsuit against the State Water Resources Control Board and Siskiyou County demanding regulation of groundwater use in Scott Valley; (2) the Riverkeeper’s lawsuit against the Montague Water Conservation District regarding Dwinnell dam, and (3) the recent duplicative study by the Karuk tribe regarding Scott Valley groundwater use and the announcement that they plan to convene a technical working group to come up with a restoration plan to impose on farmers there.

This is right on the heals of the announcement by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of a large expansion of critical habitat for the northern spotted owl in Siskiyou County. This will only enlarge the field for endless timber litigation by environmentalists. With the help of EAJA (the Equal Access to Justice Act,) environmentalists will get paid for suing on technicalities and tying projects up in court. If the past is a teacher, it is a certainty that this will further reduce the paltry levels of timber harvest we have been allowed to cut.

Also, we just learned of a ninth circuit court decision in and appeal on Karuk Tribe v. Klamath National Forest that states that, even though mining under the 1872 Mining Act is not a "discretionary grant system" and requires only a Notice, the Forest Service must treat it as if it were a “permitted” activity, requiring an Endangered Species Consultation with NOAA Fisheries.

This is the culmination of a series of attacks on suction dredge mining, which have included repeated lawsuits by the Karuk Tribe, ratcheting down of regulatory restrictions by the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board and Dept. of Fish and Game and aggressive partisan legislation to place a moratorium on and even prohibit the industry all together in California.

In the dissenting opinion in the Karuk v. KNF decision, Circuit Judge M. Smith began his opinion with an illustration of Gulliver tied with ropes to a trolley by the Lilliputians. The caption read: "I attempted to rise, but was not able to stir: for, as I happened to lie on my back, I found my arms and legs were strongly fastened on each side to the ground; and my hair, which was long and thick, tied down in the same manner. I likewise felt several
slender ligatures across my body, from my arm-pits to my thighs. I could only look upwards; the sun began to grow hot, and the light offended my eyes." - Jonathan Swift, GULLIVER’S TRAVELS, Chapter 1. (Illustration shown on my homepage here: http://users.sisqtel.net/armstrng/ )

Smith states: “In my view, decisions such as this one, and some other environmental cases recently handed down by our court (see Part VII, infra), undermine the rule of law, and make poor Gulliver’s situation seem fortunate when compared to the plight of those entangled in the ligatures of new rules created out of thin air by such decisions.”

Siskiyou County is a land of abundant resources. We have forests, fertile lands, water and minerals. Yet, like Gulliver, we are being immobilized by the endless chords of lawsuits, oppressive agency regulations, and partisan legislation that takes our wealth from us and sets it aside, preserved from human use. Like Gulliver, these many chords have robbed us of our freedom.


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