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.