Good Reasoning – Public Servants Serve…Farmers, Ranchers Are The Ag. Producers

file000762170543
Photo credit: morguefile.com

My public service philosophy came largely from Watermasters, and I continue this way of thinking in my business.  The DWR Watermasters 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 suppressed_weir_jackson_smallsaid 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!”

file000791511170
Photo credit: morguefile.com

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.

IM000225.JPG
Photo credit: morguefile.com

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 agricultural producers.  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.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Advertisements

What’s a California Watermaster Doing in Oregon?

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.  WaterNew_Pine_Dec1stpg_1925 - Editedmaster 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.

New_Pine_Dec1stpg_1932 - EditedCalifornia 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 particulaNew_Pine_Cal-Orer 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.

New_Pine_GoogleMap

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.

Water Management (Sharing Shortages) In California In the Short and Long Term, Part 1

san_diego_sdskyline14_smCalifornia surface water and groundwater laws are increasing controls rapidly, and the changes aren’t over yet.  The end result will likecreek_through_meadow_smallly be that shortages in San Diego will reduce how much a license holder in Modoc County can take.  It will probably take 20 years for the full effect…but 20 years is a lot faster than it used to be for farmers, ranchers, cities, and the environment.

How does this work?  It is harder to see from the surface water side.  How are the two ends of the State even connected, hydrologically?  Some diverters up around Alturas divert from the Pit River, which flows into Shasta Lake on the Sacramento River, which flows to the Delta, from which water is pumped by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) and the California Department of Water Resources (DWR).  Actually, DWR diverts water released from Lake Oroville on the Feather River, but that water joins the Sacramento River at Verona, before it gets to the Delta.Central_valley_project-01_wiki

The federal water goes to the San Joaquin Valley, which is the southern end of the Great Central Valley and salad bowl of California.  The USBR Central Valley Project (CVP) coordinates to some extent with the California State Water Project (SWP).

CVP_State_water_project_wiki

 

 

 

The state water goes partly to the San Joaquin Valley, and mostly over the Tehachapi Range to the Los Angeles Basin.  Where the water goes from the CVP and SWP is carefully controlled by water rights and contracts.

 

wiki_800px-Well_spudder_8606

What we don’t see with our own eyes is the groundwater picture.  Groundwater pumping has dramatically increased during the last few years of drought, as news articles have made clear.  Nobody’s groundwater rights are affected by the new groundwater laws, but every groundwater basin either has or will soon have a local management agency of some type.  Maps of groundwater shortages will be in news articles, online, and where every citizen of California can see them.  This is part 1 of a several-part post on how in the world, or in this case the state, groundwater shortages in the extreme South will affect surface water diversions way up in the North.

Some Hope in Rain and Snow Totals

Here is some hopeful news for California water supply – rain and snow totals for the year are at or a little above average, for the Central Valley Basin – The Sacramento-San Joaquin bowl that happens to contain one of the world’s greatest breadbaskets and salad bowls.  This information is measured and reported by the California Department of Water Resources.

Northern Sierra Precipitation so far this year:

nsp8s1_20151227

 

Southern Sierra Precipitation so far this year:

ssp8s1_20151227

 

California Snow Water Content, so far this year:

CSWC_20151227