Wednesday November 9, 2022

North Coast Journal

California’s water officials plan to impose a $4,000 fine on Siskiyou County ranchers for violating orders to cut back their water use during a weeklong standoff last summer. 

State officials and the ranchers agree: A $4,000 fine isn’t much of a deterrent to prevent illegal water diversions during California’s droughts. The proposed fine would amount to about $50 per rancher. 

A rural water association serving about 80 ranchers and farmers — facing mounting costs from hauling water and purchasing hay to replace dried out pasture — turned on their pumps for eight days in August to divert water from the Shasta River. State and federal officials said the pumping, which violated an emergency state order, threatened the river’s water quality and its salmon and other rare species. 

Rick Lemos, a fifth generation rancher and board member of the Shasta River Water Association, said violating the drought order “was the cheapest way I could have got by … When you’re to a point where you have no other choice, you do what you have to do.” He said the alternatives “would have cost us, collectively, a lot more.” 

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