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Forest Service: Demand Water for the Scott River

Dewatered Scott River being watered by sprinkler

In conjunction with the Klamath Riverkeeper, the Karuk Tribe and others, EPIC works to protect the health of the Scott River, which serves as a tributary to the Klamath River.  Over the last few years– as salmon returns have dropped to extremely dangerous lows–much of the route of this once vibrant home for chinook and coho salmon has dried up in late summer.  Visualize a dry riverbed with isolated pools of sitting water with dying or dead stranded fish . Then couple that mental image with overhead irrigation in neighboring fields watering second and third rotation alfalfa. The recent history of clearcut logging, bad road construction and the Klamath Reclamation Project that caused massive diversions from natural flows in the Klamath Basin have made the Scott River one of the hardest hit tributaries in the region.

Right now, one of the most effective actions people can take on this issue is to encourage the US Forest Service to help provide water for fish. The Forest Service has an in-stream water right that is dedicated to fish and wildlife. We need to encourage the Forest Service to use every tool available to help prevent extinction of these fish.

Legally, the Forest Service can put 40 cubic feet per second of water in the Scott River when water demand among alfalfa farmers spikes and the riverbed goes completely dry this fall. But in years past the agency has shied away from asserting its right out of concern that doing so would be too politically contentious in conservative Siskiyou County.

As the summer progresses, EPIC will continue to provide updates and announcements on this important issue.


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