In December 2015, I told the story of the Williamsons, owners of property near Cow Creek in Shasta County. They wanted to know what their water right is. After talking with neighbors, they decided their best option was to work with Rights To Water Engineering. In a short time, and at a relatively low cost, they had a report explaining their water right, how much of their property it covers, where the diversion is, and other important information from South Cow Creek Decree No. 38577.
How is a person supposed to figure out his or her water right, certify a measurement device, measure the diverted flow, and report it to the Water Board? That is what I do for a living: help you get rid of headaches, upset, and trouble, to comply with State law, make sure you know your water right, and measure and report your diversions. The phone call is free to discuss your needs, (530) 526-0134, and email is also free at RightsToWaterEng1@gmail.com.
See the new “How Do I … ?” link on the left. There are so many posts on this blog, it is getting harder to find stuff. Click on the link, or right-click then “Open link in new tab”, and the big questions are linked to the appropriate blog posts.
Do you have a Water BoardPermit or License? Did you report for 2015, even zero flows? If not, get your flows reported online, to avoid potential $500/day fines after September 25! See the files below, and let your neighbors know if one of them is on the list.
The Tehama County Association of Realtors graciously had me come speak this morning. I enjoy public speaking, including spreading the word on water rights and flow measurement. The TCAOR are a friendly and intelligent bunch.
In an earlier post, I had briefly listed the types of water rights, with short descriptions. That list came from a 10-page document that Watermaster Kevin Taylor and I developed for a Northern California Assessors continuing education presentation. We had not been able to find a comprehensive list small enough to hand out, and with enough information to actually understand the subject. I mentioned the 10-pager during my talk this morning, and since I did not have them printed I directed folks here. DWR handed that document out freely, but we did not put it online – so here it is:
The Board had lots of new information. The morning sessions revealed:
Watermaster Service Areas are exempt from most of this, if the Watermaster reports monthly diversions, once a year, to the Water Board or a Superior Court.
The Water Board staff “have a range of options in working to resolve
disagreements” about whether diversions comply with new regulations, according to Kathy Mrowka and attorney Nathan…did not catch his last name. That means a diverter can reason with Board staff.
The draft Alternative Compliance form is out! Not online yet, so here is a black-and-white PDF for your use now: SWRCB_DRAFT_Alternative_Compliance_bw.pdf. I think I heard correctly that Alternative Compliance Plans are good for 5 years, and then they must be revisited.
All diversions over 10 AF, up to10,000 AF, report annually to the Water Board, with exceptions below. Monthly flow volumes are reported; data collected weekly, daily, or hourly, are to be kept by the diverter but not reported unless the Board requests it.
Telemetry will be required starting in 2020, for 1) diversions over 10,000 AF, 2) diversions of 30 cfs between June 1 and September 30, or 3)diversions of over 20 % of flows Board-identified streamswith species of concern. Telemetered diversions must be reported weekly online – since this doesn’t start for 3-1/4 years, the Board will announce later how it is to be reported.
There were lots of vendors with hundreds of possible solutions to measure flows. Costs are coming down and manufacturers are getting more innovative. They still cost money though – the rule is, the more spent on devices, the better they will work for years, with less hassle. Less up-front cost means more maintenance, more upkeep. No surprise there, that’s how it is for trucks, houses, tractors, and computers.
In the afternoon, Delta Watermaster Michael Patrick George gave a great presentation on the progress of Delta regulations. Some of the main points are:
There are 2,800 diversions, and measurement and reporting compliance is proceeding nicely.
Delta diverters are recognizing that measuring device compliance, although it can be costly, is the easiest thing to do.
Alternative compliance rules are in place and working! Mr. George’s slide show is not online yet, but soon will be.
Mr. George points out that there is one set of rules and laws for the State, although application may be a little different for a flat Delta with tidal flows. What I believe will happen is thatAlternative Compliance for the State will be the same as already exists for the Delta. This means: 1) the Water Board will not approve or deny, but may comment on Alternative Compliance plans. 2) As long as someone is working to comply the Water Board will work with the diverter. The first response from the Board will NOT be a Cease and Desist Order if a diverter is communicating. 3) Plans will be posted online, and so anyone may comment or point out their real or alleged deficiencies. The effect is that if a diverter says it is too expensive to comply normally and has an ineffective plan, the diverter’s neighbors and state and federal resource agencies will likely complain to the Board that the plan is deficient.
Lauren Barva, firstname.lastname@example.org, is the main Water Board staff contact for Delta diverters. If she does not know the answer, she will make sure a Delta diverter gets an answer from the right person.
Paul Wells, email@example.com, is the main Water Board staff contact for NON-Delta diverters. If he does not know the answer, he will make sure a NON-Delta diverter gets an answer from the right person.
Kathy Mrowka and Nathan came back and did a great job of explaining how stockponds and other ponds can comply, including the use of staff gages and stage-storage curves. There will be more information online shortly.
Kathy also discussed the Report Management System (RMS). She said:
All reporting is now online, and the form is standard. That means regardless of whether you are reporting on your new measurement device, or your monthly diversions, or your stockpond use, the form will be the same.
If you have corrections, they can be made any time after the submittal deadline.
If you are filling out a form, you can save your entries, leave, and come back and still edit your form up until the time the ‘SUBMIT” button is pressed.
The Board is updating their FAQ right now, and they will soon update their “How to Work with the Board” document.
My public service philosophy came largely from Watermasters, and I continue this way of thinking in my business. The DWRWatermasters are good public servants, and they do what government employees are expected to do: serve the public – in this case, a specific segment of the population – as they regulate diversions per decrees, make quick and correct decisions to resolve problems, educate new landowners, and keep other agencies out of decreed water rights. However, Watermasters like Kevin Taylor and Joe Scott (and Les Grade, Ira Alexander, Mike Faber, Keith Dick, and others) taught me from the start, that the important part of the service is who is being served.
When Kevin would get complaints from diverters, he would often say, “I am interested in your success. Watermaster service takes money out of your pocket, and food off your table – I understand that. I want you and all the other diverters from this stream to prosper…and by making sure everyone can divert their legal entitlement, each person has the opportunity to succeed as far as it depends on the availability of a water right.” Really, Kevin said nearly those exact words, which you know if you have ever talked with him. Joe would often call diverters and say something like, “Hey, I just wanted you to know, flows came up and you can take another half a cfs. Yeah, just open the gate another 3 turns, and I will fine tune it when I get there today.” Or on the other hand, “Why did I turn your diversion down? You were taking way over your water right! Oh, you think that’s unfair? How about when your neighbor ______ upstream wants to crank up his diversion when he feels like it, and you can’t get your water? The same rules apply to everyone on the creek – learn it, love it, live it!”
Farmers and ranchers are the producers, bringing out of the ground, water, and air, what most of the rest of us do not have: plenty of top quality food, lumber, flowers, and every kind of grown product. The end results feed and supply our families, livestock, pets, as well as providing surpluses to export to other countries. If agricultural producers did not work the long hours, take risks, weather market ups and downs, and try to keep their kids interested in the family business, food and everything that is grown would cost a whole lot more. Sure, corporations own a lot of ag. land, but it takes the same people to make the farm work.
Government workers can do research, carry out the public will to contract (sometimes build) infrastructure, enforce laws and rules, and make resource use equitable or legal (not always the same thing). That’s where state Watermasters come in. They professionally administer Superior Court decrees, sometimes permits and licenses, day after day over many years, to ensure diverters get their legal share. The good Watermasters, like Kevin and Joe, always keep uppermost in their mind that they are serving agriculturalproducers. Every story needs a main character. In the story of agricultural water diversion, the main characters are men and women who put water to use growing food and products.
I picked up the phone, and the caller said, “There might be some trouble. I got a call from the Oregon Watermaster, and he says a State of California employee cannot work in Oregon. Well, what do we do now?”
California was the Watermaster for the North Fork of the Pit River as far back as the early 1930’s, until 2007 when Modoc County took it over. The Watermaster up there, Mike, was doing a great job back in 2006, and in fact holding down two huge areas. Watermaster authority was pretty clear, except that the lower part of New Pine Creek crossed from California into Oregon. Back in 1925 and 1932, when the lawsuits happened, the Superior Court Judge in Modoc County issued two decrees covering all the irrigated lands, even those in Oregon.
California Watermasters had been working in both states for decades without any questions. Now, all of a sudden, the Oregon Watermaster said our employees can’t work in their state unless we have some interstate agreement.
Documents could not be found in the offices in Oregon, or in our office in Red Bluff. Probably there was such a document, and as boxes of reports, letters, and investigations piled up out into the hallways over the years, the box with THAT particular piece of paper was thrown away. Back to Mike’s question: so now what do we do? Like all good supervisors are supposed to do, I turned the question back to Mike. “Wow, this could really be a big headache. What do you think we should do right way?” Mike suggested, “Lemme see if just he and I can sit down and talk about it. I’ll let you know what comes out of that, and we’ll see if we have to get attorneys, management, the Director, and who knows who else involved.” I thought Mike was pretty smart, like all the Watermasters are, so I said that was a great idea.
A week later, Mike called back. “Hey, I met with John, he’s a real nice guy. I explained what our watermaster service is, how we’re always making some people a little mad, and a few people a lot mad while keeping diversions legal. I told him how one time up there on New Pine Creek, a diverter came out on his porch after I turned down his diversion to his water right amount, and I was over talking to his neighbor when he fired 3 rifle shots in the air. We talked about the early morning and late evening hours, and then I asked, what do you think we should do? He thought about it and said, why don’t we keep the status quo? If management got worried, then they could make a decision, but everything seems to be working real well. I agreed, and that’s where we left it.” “Mike, you’re a genius again, well done. I’ll write a short email for the files and we’ll leave it at that.”
To this day, the California Watermaster works just a very short way into Oregon…and it serves the diverters very well.
This is old news but it does answer a few questions about stockponds. Are they different from other diversions? In the Water Board’s letter of reply to Assemblymember Dahle, the answer is that diversions to stockponds are the same as any other. If the total diversion to the pond is more than 10 AF/year, then the diversion must be measured, as shown in the excerpt just below.
However, there is an additional wrinkle. If the total of several rights stored in the pond exceeds 10 AF/year, then all diversion(s) to the pond must bemeasured. Although this would be an unusual case, 2 diverters could have small diversions, say 6 AF/year, diverted to the same pond. Each diversion would have to be measured because, even though each falls under the 10 AF/year threshold, together they total 12 AF/year, exceeding the 10 AF/year limit. If each diverter had a separate pond, then neither diversion would have to be measured.
This is sort of the same logic the Board uses when several diverters share one ditch. Even if each right is under one of the threshold levels (10, 100 or 1,000 AF/year), if the summed diversion is over the next higher level, then the next higher requirements apply, either making the compliance date sooner, or requiring higher accuracy and certification. If each diverter had a separate ditch, then all would remain at the lower level of compliance.
This is an excerpt and link to the Water Rights: Water Use Reports and Measurement web page where the letter to Assemblymember Dahle is linked:
How is a person supposed to keep up with regulations, and make sure they comply? That is what I do for a living: help you get rid of headaches, upset, and trouble, to comply with State law, make sure you are getting your water right, and cut off complaints from other diverters. The phone call is free to discuss your diversion, (530) 526-0134, and email is also free at RightsToWaterEng1@gmail.com.