DFG Storms Siskiyou

The DFG Shasta-Scott 1600 program 071410

The Prospect has been alerted that the Department of Fish and Game has been entering private lands and contacting private landowners, in the Shasta watershed, Siskiyou County. The story we got contained allegations of armed DFG cops entering private land without contact or a warrant.

It was later discovered the DFG had sent a letter to landowners in the area informing them of a new approach to DFG 1600 permits, or "streambed modification" permits. They were attempting, it is reported, to ignore traditional and historical uses and force landowners to submit for permits as though the uses were new.

The Prospect called the DFG for that region and requested verification that armed DFG cops were going on to private land without a warrant or permission, and we found out, Yes, and No.

We have discovered that the DFG is working in the Scott and Shasta river systems to improve water for the Coho Salmon. They have been doing so since the fish was listed in 2005. During that 5 years the DFG and the Shasta Valley Resource Conservation district, and other players, worked toward a plan.

The plan does not, we are told, grant new police powers to DFG; however, it makes using the ones they have easier.

As if often the case, the first five years was to get everyone on board. Those who didn’t get on board are now going to do so, at the barrel of a gun, if it comes to that (though everyone at DFG hopes it doesn’t come to that).

Documents for that plan state the following:

As part of its efforts to develop the Coho Recovery Strategy, CDFG convened the Shasta-Scott

Coho Recovery Team which, in addition to identifying recommendations for the pilot program,

identified the need to develop a programmatic implementation framework that works toward the

recovery of coho salmon, while providing authorization for the take coho salmon incidental to

otherwise lawful routine agricultural activities in the Shasta and Scott River watersheds.

The key phrases here are "take" and "otherwise lawful" indicating that any possible take of Coho is not lawful. Keep in mind, DFG doesn’t have to show a dead fish to prove you’ve taken coho, they can actually demonstrate that you might some day kill coho babies.

The document continues:

The Program is intended to facilitate compliance by Agricultural Operators, California

Department of Water Resources (DWR), and SVRCD with CESA and Fish and Game Code,

§ 1602 by streamlining the process to obtain take authorization and SAAs for any activity the

Program covers, referred to as a "Covered Activity."6 Under the Program, SVRCD will

implement key coho salmon recovery projects identified in the Coho Recovery Strategy. Hence,

the Program will also further the objectives of that strategy.

It isn’t clear what "streamlining" might mean; the key is the DFG intends to give them authorization where, they believe, there is none now.

The effort to protect the Coho was characterized in the letter sent to us as the DFG extending and overstepping their authority, and using the Coho as an excuse to grab what water they can.

The Prospect has found nothing to sufficiently dispute that characterization. It does seem that the State, working with local water agencies created for the task, is moving to squeeze more water from agricultural and county-of-origin users.

But, they didn’t overstep their authority, they have near police state powers, so long as the proper forms are filled in and the proper experts have made the necessary statements.

Essentially, this is the long and torturous trail from citizen/environmentalist complaint through layers of bureaucracies to mostly oblivious lower level technicians to some poor cousin trying to raise a few cows or a little hay.

It doesn’t help that there is some justification, that big money interests have pitted ag users against the salmon in the Klamath River (of which the Scott and Shasta are tributaries). The "ag users" in the Klamath basin have in many instances stopped farming and sold water rights to developers and big business ag. Pushing the small farmer forward as though the last American institution is at risk in that instance is simply a ruse. The four damns are the main cause of fish death and poor reproductive rates, and there is more water sold than exists.

In the instance of the DFG in the Shasta Valley, the department is simply doing what bureaucracies do, they catalogue things, take authority, grant permission.

The DFG person we spoke with was not, strictly speaking a spokesperson. He simply isn’t paid to take the crap from newspapers we’d like to give, so we’re going to avoid naming him.

Suffice to say, like all bureaucrats in similar jobs everywhere in history, he was slightly baffled that anyone is upset. The purpose is to clean up the rivers and restore the salmon, who doesn’t want to do that? Everyone in the "covered" area has been contacted, and all "legal" users of diverted water will be helped to bring their diversions into compliance. See HERE.  The DFG doesn’t mean to cause problems, but if water users are impacting the chances of the salmon to recover, even a little tiny bit, they are as guilty as if they have dead Coho stacked like cordwood around the farm.

A whole lot of reality exists outside the definitions of DFG. Some users are neither legal, nor illegal, but this activity will make them illegal. In most instances users take about what they should, but maybe a little more if they need it, and few ag users can afford to have that kind of discrepancy discovered. In reality many users can’t afford to bring their diversions up to code, and they often know very well their little bit of water isn’t going to make or break the Coho, nor would thousands like them.

The DFG guy admitted it was unfortunate, but these actions might fall on small users, far up the creek.

The California Farm Bureau has filed suit against the DFG for the impact of 1600 on agricultural users. Among the complaints of that suit: the new process assumes the DFG can enter the property when they wish. That is simply going too far, we agree. Another complaint focuses on the fact that the landowner is liable under Federal law for a taking even though under state law a dead fish is required. Layering the federal over the state means landowners are essentially pleading guilty to taking even though no fish are found and there are no fish for miles and miles. Because Coho is known to be in the watershed, no one can claim an unintended taking. The CFB feels the state should pay for mitigation costs, not farmers and other water rights holders.

The DFG, according to their non-spokesperson, has attempted to write grants to help compliant landowners support the cost.

The activities against small and agricultural users will continue, for the Coho, and for those downstream who want their water pure.

We’ll keep you posted as information comes in, but in general, they want our water, for the fish, or for the Central Valley, we are last on the list.


Under Senate Bill 8 of the "2009 Clean Water And So On Act" the Department of Water Resources is also mandated to menace rural water users, particularly those with traditional and historical county-of-origin uses. Sierra Valley ag users have already had a close call with DWR demanding access and information regarding "diversions"; it’s doubtful the problem will go away.

It is unfortunate. It is unfortunate for the few small users of the Shasta, and for us on the Sacramento watershed.

Until then, read this


Website Builder