Some Notes From May 24 RCD / CFB SB 88 Workshop In Red Bluff

Yesterday, Thursday May 24, The Resource Conservation District of Tehama County and the Tehama County Farm Bureau held an SB 88 workshop, explaining requirements and methods for measuring and reporting on stockponds and surface water diversions.  Kirk Wilbur of California Cattlemen gave the best explanation I have ever seen on the regulations, what they mean, and how to comply.

I discussed measurement devices and water level loggers, installations, and some Board forms.  Here are some really rough notes that I will edit and add to later:

Types of water flow measurement devices

  • Weir – water level – Showed model of weir with boards
    • With Stilling Well for water level logger
  • Orifice – upstream AND downstream water level – Showed model of weir with boards, configured as orifice
  • Flume – water level – Showed 2 sheet-metal models, one for 0.9 cfs, one for 1.8 cfs
  • Pipe Meter (magnetic or propeller) – velocity
  • Acoustic Doppler – velocity
  • Rated Section, earth or lined – elevation vs. flow
  • Staff gage – elevation
  • Pressure transducer, ALL BATTERY POWERED – depth – Showed 2 types: Hobo and PMC data logger

Typical Installations

  • Weir – poured, pre-fab, conversion of gate, T-post and boards for temporary
    • Weir in ditch
    • Splitter weir
  • Orifice – can use weir box, boards, steel plate
  • Flume – poured, pre-fab, WinFlume built in concrete lined ditch
  • Pipe Meter (magnetic or propeller) – 4” – 12” bolt on existing pipe, 12” and larger, replace section of pipe
  • Acoustic Doppler
    • ditch – Sontek IQ on bottom or Side Looker at side
    • pipe – Sontek IQ, Panametric, other
  • Rated Section, earth or lined – elevation vs. flow, requires engineer/hydrologist to measure each flow and develop a rating table and curve
  • Staff gage – elevation only, goes WITH a measurement device
  • Pressure transducer – depth only, Volume WITH area-capacity / elevation storage curve, or WITH measurement device.

Strategies for Success with the Water Board

  • CALL them, get to know Kathy Mrowka, head of the Enforcement Program, or Jeff Yeazell, the public contact for non-Delta issues.
  • EMAIL them about the compliance steps you are taking.
  • INVITE THEM to your place. Showing a green staffer how a ranch or farm really works gives them context.
  • CHAIN OF COMMAND – this always works in bureaucracies! If you make it a pain for the boss, you are more likely to be heard or get leniency.
  • NEGOTIATE – laws are laws, regulations are regulations, and there are always exceptions, waivers, and so on.
  • DON’T DIG IN YOUR HEELS – Water Board folks are human and they are likely to direct their attention to someone who they are mad at.

Alternative Compliance – Water Board survey on web page

  • Not approved, denied, or evaluated
  • Will be public and can be reviewed, questioned, or criticized by anyone
  • May be “audited”, as Kathy Mrowka just told me a couple of weeks ago.
  • Estimate pond evaporation – CIMIS
  • No guarantee an ACP will not be protested
  • Varying risk of protest based on situation – higher risk factors
    • Does the stream have salmon or trout?
    • Are there other threatened, or endangered species?
    • Is the diversion or pond large?
    • Is access easy?
    • Is there a definite diversion channel?

Alternative Compliance Plans – Reasons I have used:

  • PART OF A YEAR, for a diversion or pond, if a pressure transducer needs to be removed to keep it from freezing.
  • A diversion that is not going to be used for up to 4 years, if it is blocked off with an iron plate or concrete plug.
  • Hydro plant, using power converted to flow
  • Ponds that have no gated outlets, and are not filled or drained by human action. These can only spill over uncontrolled spillway.
  • Ponds that have been in place for decades. They are part of the landscape, necessary for cattle and other ranching, and criticial for wildlife, waterfowl, and perhaps fish.
  • Ponds that are strictly for dry-land farming. If there are no diversions on a ranch, the ponds are all there is.
  • Ponds that have a low total amount of storage for the size of a ranch. For example, 6 ponds totaling 110 acre-feet for a 2,500-acre ranch.  The ponds are only used for stock and/or wildlife water and no irrigation.
  • A pond larger than 100 acre-feet, which has a creek running through it that never dries, and no water is diverted from the pond, so it is always full. Collecting data would provide zero new information – zero benefit, so any measurement cost is infinite relative to the cost.

Request For Additional Time

  • Up to 24 months
  • Need good reasons
  • Easy to file

Request For Additional Time – Reasons I have used:

  • The Water Board did not get the word out well, especially if my client never got a letter from the Board.
  • A parent who ran the ranch passed away.
  • 2016 was an extremely wet winter and spring, making access difficult until June, July, or later.
  • By mid-season, farmers and ranchers are in the middle of long days, leaving no time to put in a measurement device.
  • My client is investigating water efficiency, possibly an NRCS EQIP grant, and this would change the plan for a measurement device.

Some Things Learned In SB 88 Compliance Work

SB 88 compliance work has been taking up most of my time lately!  I have learned something from every client and every project.  Here is a partial list from the last couple of months:

Photo Credit:
  • People are complex, with lifetimes of experience.  Especially those who have run businesses – farmers and ranchers in this case – will only offer wisdom if I listen.  Some of the best advice I have heard and started to apply is, “If you don’t like the way things are, just wait, they’ll change”…”Folks will help you if you ask and if you are not too proud to get help”…”Everything we eat, have, and touch, comes out of the earth, not from laws, regulations, or government workers”.
  • I saw a wooden weir that is engineer-certifiable!  It is in a stable ditch, where sediment is not allowed to get in the ditch and pile up.  The rancher obviously read up on weirs, probably from the USBR Water Measurement Manual, and he changes the boards often, keeps it level, and checks it regularly.  He uses the tables correctly to measure the flow.  It can be done.
  • Photo Credit:

    If a job needs a big excavator, get one.  Trying to get by with a smaller piece of equipment doesn’t save money in the end!  I have heard this from equipment operators over the decades, and now I have experienced it.

  • There is always the right tool for the job…and half the time it is the one I don’t have yet!  For example, I have gotten by with a 20V, battery-operated DeWalt hammer drill for most concrete drilling, but high-strength concrete or having to drill 50 holes in regular concrete can burn up the best hammer drills.  Now I have my first rotary hammer, and I’ll be getting larger SDS rotary hammer tools soon.  Back to the “Folks will help you if you ask” advice above, I have been bugging John Bell of Redding Fasteners for advice – he is really smart and well-educated about all fastenating things.
  • Alternative Compliance Plans (ACPs) have benefits – saved time, reduced cost, avoiding effort on measurement where there is no benefit.  ACPs have risks – the more a diversion or reservoir is a standard case, the more likely somebody or an agency will lodge a protest with ACPs are made public.  There is always the possibility that the Water Board, listening to protests, may come back and say, “That’s not reasonable, get measurement devices in quickly.”
  • Speaking of ACPs, I just learned from Kathy Mrowka, Lily Weaver, and Jeff Yeazell that the WATER BOARD MAY AUDIT ACPs.  Before now, all I have heard or read is that the Water Board will not accept, reject, or evaluate ACPs, leaving it up to public review to bring up questions.
  • There are cattle ranches in places I never dreamed of!  From Imperial County, to San Luis Obispo, to Alturas and all the way to the Oregon border.  Thank you all, I really enjoy beef of every kind!

More later, have a good night, a great weekend, good health everyone!