Follow up: DFG screen removal on French Creek diversions
After a letter that was sent out October 28, 2010 concerning the removal of two fish screens on French Creek by the Department of Fish and Game, a meeting was called to discuss the situation. Marcia Armstrong, Rick Costalas (Siskiyou County), Neil Manji (DFG Regional Manager), Joe Scott, Sean Pike, Curtis Andersen (DWR), along with Jeff Fowle, Jim Harris and Preston Harris (water users) were in attendance. About forty five minutes were spent discussing the removal of the screens and the closing of the head gate. The DFG will not claim responsibility for closing the head gate, but Neil did accept full responsibility for the removal of the screens without notification or permission from the water users. Manji said that if Coho were to end up in agricultural fields and a take occurred, the DFG would have been at fault and the water users would have been cleared of any liabilities. The subject of poor communication within the DFG was also discussed at length. Again, Neil recognized this as a problem, and said this topic had been brought up to him at other meetings earlier in the week.
In conclusion of these conversations, Neil stated that the DFG is “committed” to seeing that improper screen removal never happens again. He also said he is “committed” to addressing the lack of communication the DFG has within its own agency. Neil did not, however, state that he would address any of the problems and illegal activities brought forth by the water users concerning the ITP/1602, later in the meeting.
The next subject discussed was the issue of ditch returns. The DFG was again put on the spot to explain and justify how the department has continuously changed the size of the return pipe associated with some fish screen systems in Scott Valley. By changing the returns the DFG is affecting the head of water being diverted. A larger return pipe means that a greater head of water must be diverted to compensate for the loss of flow. The DFG’s actions were called a water grab. This is an issue that must be resolved by the DFG and DWR. Neil was also told that several times over the years, water users and ditch companies were forced by the DFG to open ditch returns that spill onto dry rivers and creek beds, instead of leaving the return closed and allowing fish to use the ditch for rearing. These actions lead to the killing of protected Coho.
After talking about these issues, the discussion evolved into a full blown ITP/1602 conversation where the landowners gave multiple explanations of how flawed and illegal the system is and how this community has been stabbed in the back by the DFG, mostly by Mark Stouffer and his group, as the ITP/1602 was developed. Neil was told that if he and the DFG truly want to reach sustainability between water use and the environment, they need to realize that the ITP/1602 will not work and that the situation the DFG has created needs to be corrected.
Perhaps more important than being able to address the issues in the letter, as well as the countless problems with the ITP/1602, is the fact that by making this situation public we forced the DFG to meet us at the table. If this community wants to make a difference then it needs to let its voices be heard. The DFG in Yreka, Redding, and Sacramento should be flooded with disapproval for the system it is trying to force upon the landowners and surface water diverters in Siskiyou County, and ultimately the State of California. The public needs to write letters, send emails, speak out, and do whatever they can to fight this tyranny.
French Creek water user