Ranchers are united in desire to use best practices
Ranchers in the Upper Feather River Watershed Group are united in goals for healthy pastures and environment, as well as protection of historical water rights.
On tour Friday, Oct. 22, of the Indian Valley Meyers Family Ranch, participants learned about setting irrigation pipes and the methods to maximize responsible water use throughout the year.
While showing off his recently laser-leveled ranch land, Christian Meyers explained the water sources he is allowed to use and when.
He demonstrated how to join and set underground irrigation pipes, and the low pressures he expected from gravity-fed creek water.
Participants enjoyed a barbecue after the tour, including a lamb locally raised by Cooper Kingdon, a young member of another large Indian Valley ranching family.
Talk about water
Chairman Russell Reid led the annual meeting, and talk about water issues was a common concern among members.
Uppermost were state-mandated fees for dischargers and polluters, a tag they have all been labeled with.
Unfair, according to leadership, are the fees-per-acre charged regardless of whether or not pesticides are used that could seep into groundwater and creeks.
Monitoring on Plumas and Sierra county creeks has been ongoing for five years. Data shows permanent pasture, grazing and haying have little overall impact on water quality, according to U.C.-Davis rangeland watershed specialist Ken Tate, Ph.D.
He and Holly George of the University of California Cooperative Extension obtained a Proposition 50 grant for a special monitoring study that began in 2006.
The valley sites where water quality data has been gathered since 2005 include Indian Creek in Indian Valley below Arlington Bridge, the Middle Fork of the Feather River in Sierra Valley above the Grizzly Creek confluence, and Spanish Creek in American Valley below Greenhorn Creek confluence.
There are localized pollution issues though and watershed group leaders encourage partnerships between landowners and agencies such as the Natural Resources and Conservation Service, resource conservation districts, the University of California Cooperative Extension and others.
Grants are often available to help ranchers modify practices or add contrivances to mitigate pollution and erosion problems.
Group efforts in localized pollution issues include representation at stakeholder and legislative meetings, special monitoring programs to pinpoint causes and others.
What about rights?
Plumas and Sierra county ranchers are concerned about the protection of their historical water rights when it comes to creek restoration projects.
Indian Valley Director Brian Kingdon spoke about the issue during the board meeting Thursday, Oct. 14, in Calpine.
There are unknown impacts to downstream irrigators and water rights holders he reported.
Of special concern to his family are the Red Clover and Last Chance projects led by Feather River Coordinated Resource Management.
In Sierra Valley, vice chairman Paul Roen is dealing with a similar situation with the water company.
The group decided there needed to be more review prior to implementation of projects and more monitoring and studying afterward.
Members also suggested lead agencies should make more effort to share information about proposed projects with agricultural irrigators, which might help address their concerns.