Marijuana Grows’ Impact on Local Creeks Documented; New Watershed Mapped

Are marijuana grows really affecting water flows?

Some cannabis farmers argue that their water use is minimal compared to grapes or almonds, etc. Or they argue that the drought is the only reason stream flow is below historic levels. Recently, Scott Bauer, Staff Environmental Scientist, at the California Department of Fish & Wildlife spoke before the 2015 Western Section Wildlife Society Conference. Above is a video of his speech in which he looks at the effect of marijuana grows on local watersheds. He argues that marijuana grows are dewatering local streams and killing fish. He offers compelling information.

Don’t have time for the entire video? Here are highlights.

madriver

Map of marijuana gardens in the Mad River watershed.

Mad River folks, Bauer’s crew just took a look at what’s happening in your area. Not good. According to a study they just conducted, you’ve got more plants (and thus more water being diverted from your river) than any other studied so far. In the video, Bauer claims approximately, 50,000 marijuana plants are sucking up water in that area. Remember the maps of Salmon Creek, upper and lower Redwood Creeks, and Outlet Creek? Now there’s one of your watershed.

die

Water diversions kill fish on China Creek in 2013.

China Creek folks, Bauer illustrates the issues of dewatering our streams with a fish kill found in your area in 2013. A dam placed at the headwaters was the worst culprit but there were dozens of other diversions. Steelhead, Coho and Chinook live in the creek and all were impacted by the water withdrawn for marijuana gardens.

Fort Seward folks, Bauer said the Eel River in your area in the summer of 2014 had the lowest flows ever recorded in the 60 year history of measuring there.

diversion

Major diversions sometimes take up to 50% of the flow on the Eel River at Fort Seward, says Scott Bauer.

He also noted that someone is diverting large amounts–up to 50% of low flow. He said, “There is a major diversion taking place every day. We have no idea who’s doing it….At one particular point they almost took half of the flow. That’s a problem.”

nf of salmon creek

Water flows on a creek with marijuana grows drop to zero.

All together now: In most cases, the amount taken is relatively small. However, Bauer said, the cumulative effect of multiple diversions can completely dewater the creeks. In the creeks studied by Bauer, those with marijuana grows dropped precipitously to zero flow around August.

Grizzly

Water in Grizzly Creek, though low due to drought conditions, continues to flow. It has no marijuana grows.

Bauer said, “The only stream that didn’t go to zero was Grizzly Creek which has no marijuana cultivation.”

Bauer concludes his speech by arguing that it is going to be difficult to store enough water to support large marijuana grows in the hills of the Emerald Triangle. He states, “On commercial scale it is going to be difficult to achieve… .”

 

 

 

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67 comments

  • The Eel River at Fort Seward has been flowing at about 800 cubic feet per second, according to the National Weather Service. (It briefly went to 8000 after the last small rain). At 7 gallons per cubic foot times 800 cfs that’s 5600 gallons a second, or enough water to supply over 100 pot plants for the entire 90 day growing season at the (too high) estimate of 6 gallons per day. That flow would, by the same standard, water 6000 plants for the season in a minute, and 360,000 if diverted for one hour. If someone is diverting 50% of the flow now, they have achieved a miracle of water storage and could be watering the entire pot plantations of northern California with plenty of water to spare. Summer low flows could be 100 cfs, which would reduce these figures but not by enough to make it practical for the diversion to be done by or used for pot growers. Before accepting the statements of these “studies” try doing the math. If he’s wrong about the river, is he right about the creeks? (Please double check my math before accepting my analysis)

    • He says those diversions on the Eel were made last summer.

      • Uti covered the situation pretty well. The spikes on his graph are of unknown origin, and may not reflect actual flow at all. It seems impossible that they reflect diversions because the amount of water that has to be moved from the river to some other site is impossibly huge. I suggest Scott check the USGS and see if they stand behind those spikes being real measurements of river flow.

        • Here’s a screenshot of the same USGS graph that’s clearer. The low spikes occur in the late evenings for short periods of time during the 9/8/14 through 9/14/14date range. Anyone can get this off the internet. I looked at the graph for the only other upstream USGS monitoring station near dos Rios and the same evening spikes appear but somewhat longer. My suspicion is that these spikes are caused by the Potter Valley diversion increasing power generation in the afternoons to meet peak afternoon load demand. I can’t prove it without seeing the records for the PVP, which I cannot access online. If someone could get the flow history for the PVP for the same dates and it shows a corresponding spike in the amount of water diverted then Mr. Bauer’s theory would go up in smoke.

          • Here’s the Dos Rios graph for the same dates. Notice the evening downward flows are more drawn out.

          • Scratch my theory of the PVP power generation effect on flows. I finally found the hourly data for the Eel flows below the diversion for 9/8/14 through 9/14/14 and the flows don’t vary more than a couple of cfs during the whole period.

            But what is clear is that something is going on in the river basin that causes flow to slow down in the evenings as far upstream as the USGS Dos Rios flow sensor.

          • Trees . You can see it in small streams. As the day warms up the trees suck up water. As the days cool off they siphon less. That’s the daily flow pattern.

      • One other thought. The actual principal diversion of Eel River water is the Potter Valley tunnel where Eel river water is taken for the Russian river drainage. I have thought of that as a constant diversion, but perhaps they turn it on and off thus creating spikes in water flow some miles below their diversion. Or would the water flow tend to even out over the miles? Can you have a negative flood? Still any discussion of Eel river water should start with the Potter Valley diversion and the dam that allows it.

      • The USGS shows that Eel River flows at Fort Seward were under 10 cfs during most or all of August 2014. The lowest flow seems to have been closer to 5 cfs and the river was between 5-7 cfs for at least a week. So lets do the math. 5 cfs @ 7 gals per cf = 35 gallons per second. 35×60 = 2100 gallons a minute. 2100×60 = 126,000 gallons per hour. How did anyone take 1/2 of that amount of water, even for one hour? I’m surprised to find how low the river was, but I do not see any realistic way that pot growers, or anyone else, was taking 50% of this flow. Or, if we imagine that this was what was left after the diversion, then we are having to say that the diversion was at the rate of 126,000 gallons per hour. I think the study author might want to explain this. Again, double check my math before getting up in arms either way on this issue.

        His graph seems to be for a higher water period – September of 2014, when the flow was 4 times what it was in the calculations. The spikes he shows are present in the USGS data, but could not possibly represent diversions because of the practical problems with pumping that much water in such a short time. The main user of water above Fort Seward is the Alderpoint water district which draws its water from wells sunk into the river bed above Alderpoint, but I believe even with the district’s large water tank, and commercial pumps, diversions on this scale are not possible. Perhaps the USGS can explain those spikes, which do not represent actual measurements. (Do the spikes represent diversions into Potter Valley for Russian river agriculture and recreation?)

    • Perhaps the math is wrong and it would certainly be nice to have accurate figures before making claims but the bottom line is, growing pot in this county is rampant, and is definitely having a negative impact on watersheds in many respects including de-watering them. That fact has become tough to deny regardless of whether you make your living from the grow industry or not. We can quibble over exact figures forever and continue to watch fish and other aquatic organisms die en masse, or we can acknowledge the destruction to our watersheds that we know growing is causing, and work on solutions.

      • One answer would be county licenses for gardens with a requirement of adequate water stored prior to the end of the rainy season. Ponds would be the idea storage device, I should think, but if someone wants tanks or bladders, that’s ok too so long as they’ve got the water.

        • But the county couldn’t license non-medical grows, until legalization takes effect and maybe not even then if the grows are still black market. I wonder what percentage of grows could pass the test as medical? Doesn’t that leave it up to the CDFW and Water Board who can enforce existing water laws and turn a blind eye to whether the grow is licensed, legal or not? That’s what they say they are doing right now, but it appears they are severely under-funded and lack the personnel to handle the volume.

    • So the graph pictured above shows brief spikes in the daily flow where it drops from 20cfs to something above 10cfs. Let’s say for example it’s a maximum of 8 cfs, which is 59.8 gallons per second. It’s virtually impossible that is one pump because it would take a huge pump to suck up 3,590 gallons per minute (pumps are usually rated in gpm) or that it’s even a series of large pumps coordinated to run at the same time. For example, a 25 horsepower trailer mounted diesel pump I’m familiar with for irrigation was only rated to pump around 250 gallons per minute and that was not very far uphill.

      The graph is from the Fort Seward gauging station, but that doesn’t pinpoint the location other than it is somewhere upstream. What’s more likely is that the spikes are the cumulative result of many small pumps upstream that operate at about the same time, like you get up in the morning and go start your pump. The photo of the graph isn’t exactly clear enough to see how long the spike lasts but it looks like it only a couple of hours on those days.

      So once again Bauer is taking a piece of data he did not generate, but got from another source, that is not verified in a scientific manner and is using it to promote a political agenda, because he has no data showing who or what caused the flow spikes it’s being aimed at pot growers.

      The problem I see with the way the study was done and is being used is the CDFW is just continuing the old prohibitionist agenda, one that has had zero power to stop the growth of the marijuana industry, something even CAMP at it’s height could barely dent. I’m not seeing how this is going to save any endangered fish, because they are not likely to ever have the manpower to enforce the laws at a rate that will stop summertime diversions. A few fines and busts aren’t the answer. Sacramento has it’s eyes and ears focused on the Delta and a much more serious crisis affecting the Central Valley and water supply for the big urban population centers.

      So how many properties has their new multi-agency task force inspected so far? 50? We saw the news reports when they did their January inspections in Sproul Creek and unless I missed any followup stories there’s been nothing since in the news. That’s not going to save the Coho in China Creek or salmon and steelhead in Salmon Creek, the Mattole or any of the other watersheds.

      Sad to say it as a long time fish lover, but the salmon runs in our Northcoast rivers are not likely to survive the circumstances without a miracle. I don’t like being a pessimist, but I can’t see anything realistically happening in time to save the coho. The chinook and steelhead are more resilient and my best hope is that they will hang in there and repopulate the streams when human activities change.

  • I finally saw Scott Bauer in person. So Redwood Creek around Briceland had the highest plant per acre count? Lot’s of old commune style properties that sometimes invite more partners every year to buy in off the books. What interests me is how this water poor area got Coho to begin with. I have not been on every parcel but I know there is much water poverty in many forks of it. That means there must be a handful of really heavy flowing springs. I think he almost said as much as that going to monitor the biggest ones could do more to provide water for the creeks than hunting down who knows how many two hundred or less per gallon diversions.

    • There were once other species of salmon in California, Chum and Pink according to Peter Moyle at UC Davis. It was cooler and wetter when Europeans settled here. The virgin forests in NW California made it possible for the streams in the Eel, Mattole and Klamath-Trinity watersheds to run cold enough, clean enough and steady enough to support Coho. When you consider that over 400 genetically distinct runs of Pacific salmon have already gone extinct from Mexico to Alaska due to human activities like mining, logging and dams, and that 90% of most local watersheds have been logged at least once, it’s not a mystery why we’re about to lose the Coho in the South Fork Eel and Mattole. The water diversions by pot growers is just the knockout punch to the fish already weakened by many hits.

  • patrick shannon

    This study doesn’t qualify as “science”. There is no attempt to measure the variables. This advances a hidden political agenda of land confiscation and uses “half science” to do so.

  • One more small issue with the 2012 study. A certain site that yielded a larger red dot had many tomato, pepper, eggplant, bush bean, cucumber, and more counted as cannabis plants. I suppose he went and classified them as pot because they use water as well. What about that fantastic vineyard on the little fork of the Salmon? It got left out. Why not leave out vegetables and orchards everywhere then?

    • If anything, the study vastly underestimates the # of plants and in Salmon Creek.
      The study states that there were 11,697 outdoor plants when they did the study.
      You can easily double or triple that # if not much more. I know at least 10 growers this year that are planting 1000+ outdoor plants this year in 100 gallon pots.There are a lot more than 10 growers in Salmon Creek.
      The # of greenhouses is also way off. Between last year and this year there are at least 30 new greenhouses on the first 4 miles of Salmon Creek/Thomas road. Some of the green houses are small and some (at least half) are 100′ long and required extensive illegal excavation.
      Some people say the water use per plant of 6 gal/day is way off. I disagree, but even if you use half that much water, the increase in the # of plants since the study more than makes up for it.
      While water storage sounds good, it is nothing but a pipe dream. I have seen 100’s water tanks go by my place, but it is literally a drop in the bucket.
      To meet the storage needs requires more excavation to flatten out a space for all the tanks.
      We have many new young people in Salmon Creek that don’t intend to make Salmon Creek their long term residence, These people are not going to invest in infrastructure if they don’t have to, and they are not.
      Right now we have rush hour at 5AM. It is hard to believe how much traffic is coming into Salmon Creek early in the morning to tend to their light dep.

  • I’m curious about how the new California water crisis and the new mandatory 25% water usage reduction will affect the North Coast drainages. Won’t it be impossible to gauge? Also, the farmers in the valley apparently are not being restricted. Does that mean that Marijuana farms will not be restricted? What will happen with the Trinity and the Klamath? Will the Indians and the fish prevail over the Sacramento Valley irrigation? Will they be hauling our water out of here? There is also a law that says that water from one drainage can’t be moved to another. This will be an interesting year.

    • The Central Valley farmers are being restricted by lack of surface water deliveries from the state and federal projects. The ones that can afford to drill deeper wells into the aquifer will do so until the groundwater runs out or the state regulations kick in.

  • I’ve talked to locals who have seen the ell river at Alderpoint go under ground twice in that same 60 period…So i quess that wasn’t part of that recorded history…..

    • I’ve lived on property abutting the Eel River at Alderpoint since 1980 and I don’t recall ever seeing the water go underground. I don’t look at the river every day, so I can’t say it didn’t happen, but in the last couple of years it has been the lowest I’ve seen.

  • Lazy Skunk Ranch

    What is going to happen is the state will claim ALL water and demand meters on ALL wells. It will go to court and end up being a grandfather sunset clause. Property rights show you have RIGHTS to water, now the state can simply change real estate law as they wish, claiming “rule of law”?

    Most of the water bashing comes from people that don’t even own land, livestock, or even live in the areas they claim to study and know so much about.

    If you see any of these water police broken down wanting a cell phone, tell them to f*ck off and keep driving- they are stalinists coming for your land with a desire to disrupt lifestyles, wreck families, and sow the seeds of the big take over.

    These city folk HATE rural people, our lifestyles, and our freedom. Out of jealously they attack us through the state and wrap themselves in their bullsh*t laws.

  • Thank you. There are many folks growing food in the hills & I too have wondered about the “green count” on these studies. Its very frustrating to have all the blame fall on outdoor grows without even hearing any comparison to other water users, like grapes, cows, water tenders, etc. It also sucks to see citizens have to cut water use while big biz still gets the status quo. Oil&ag in particular. It would be great if there was a more pro-active movement, ie teaching everyone water saving techniques. There’s no doubt that some folks could give a crap about our area & overuse water. Talk to your local real estate person about how many parcels are sold to out of owners that just punch roads in & go for it. Its so very sad how a few folks got rich selling to newbies who are not invested in the community.

    • Just wanted to throw my two cents in.. We own and operate Elk Prairie Vineyard here on Fruitland Ridge, between Miranda and Myers Flat. We grow winegrapes and have not watered them for over 15 years now. We rely totally on spring rains and very deep rooted vines.

  • I certainly can’t argue with the established fact that growers are withdrawing water during critical low flow months and killing fish. I’ve seen it happen for the past several years. It’s a tragedy that is preventable with no needed losses to either the environment, the farmers or the local economy.

    I don’t agree with Bauer’s quote that it will difficult to achieve water storage to support commercial cannabis cultivation in terms of there being enough water, or on engineering or cost bases. The only difficulty will be in incentivizing the farmers.

    First, cannabis is not the water thirsty plant Bauer portrays it. I’ve proved it to myself as have others who have employed water conserving irrigation and measured their water use. An average farmer can easily produce a pound of quality outdoor full-sun buds in southern Humboldt with approximately 350 gallons of water by heavily mulching the plants and not over watering.

    When I talk to people I consider experienced master gardeners they just laugh and shake their heads at Bauer’s characterization of cannabis as a thirsty plant and the water requirements of cannabis references he cited in his study. Yes, a big multi-pound plant in the hotter climate of eastern Humboldt or Mendocino is going to use much more water due to transpiration and soil evaporation, but not the average plants in Salmon Creek or Redwood Creek or the Mattole watersheds, places where the streams have dried up the past couple of summers killing fish. That’s also not to say that some farmers don’t over-water and waste water.

    Second, we live in an area with abundant rainfall, even in a severe drought year. Humboldt county covers just over 4,000 square miles. Every time it rains one inch approximately 67 billions of gallons of water fall on the county—multiply that by the average number of inches and we’re talking about more than enough water to grow cannabis, support salmon habitat and everything else. The Humboldt Bay area averages 38 inches, 52 in Willow Creek, to over 90 inches in the Mattole Valley in average years depending on the location.

    For every 1,000 square feet of surface area 600 gallons of water are produced by an inch of rain. All we have to do is store it in Winter for when it doesn’t rain, which coincides with the Summer farming season.

    Since we have terrain that’s not conducive to big dams and the irrigation infrastructure of the big agricultural valleys, small scale individual storage is our only option. The difficulty is with each farmer having the incentive and desire to construct enough storage to irrigate their plants, plus the technical help. Big grows need ponds and smaller grows can exist off of bladder tanks, large rain catcher tanks, or even cheap above ground pools.

    If a small farmer has 100 one pound producing plants and employs good irrigation practices they can get by with two 20,000 gallon water bladders that cost about $4,000 each. There’s no excuse to not store every drop of water needed.

    If a big commercial grower produces 1,000 large outdoor plants they need a lined or bentonite clay sealed pond that holds about a half million gallons to allow for some inevitable losses due to evaporation and having a reserve supply.

    There’s more than enough winter runoff to fill storage. But so far most growers are ignoring doing the right thing for various reasons. In the past growers were reluctant to buy storage because it would be too visible from the air or get wrecked by CAMP, so stream and spring diversions were cheap and easy for unskilled farmers and it became a part of the grower culture. It’s time to put that practice in the past and it is no excuse when people are putting in big commercial greenhouses and openly growing. Cost is not an excuse either, marijuana is not a slim profit margin commodity.

    Ponds would have additional benefits to the community and should be encouraged by the state and county governments, both of which should be providing technical help and a streamlined permitting process. The ponds created would provide emergency water for wild land fire fighting.

    • very informative :)

      Wow thank you!!!! That is one of the more informative things I have read. Please send to our representatives! ! I cannot take this study seriously as it doesn’t take into account other water users in that watershed. Lets see them prove pot takes more water than grapes & cows. Were vineyards in these ‘studied’ watersheds taken into account or lumped in as pot like food gardens were? Have they included all the water running underground in the Eel due to major silt buildup from extensive logging?
      I agree, there is no need to use that much water. Good gardeners know how to mulch, etc. Most folks I know have always been conserved water as they are invested in a future here. Lets make it so realtors have a little pamphlet or something about water & how to put in a road. There are a few realtors who have made millions selling to outsiders. One I talked to didnt get why punching a road in however you like is a problem.

      • As Pogo said “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

        Of course marijuana is using the bulk of what is diverted in the tributaries, but the main thing to remember is that there are more people living in the hills than ever before, everyone uses water and most people don’t store more than a few weeks worth for domestic use. Everybody for every use should be storing water.

        • “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

        • Id also like to contribute one of my theory’s with the depletion of our blue line and seasonal tributaries.
          For the first time in our regions history our forests and most importantly riparian zones are overgrown with densely populated plant species like never before in history.
          It’s difficult to determine exactly how much water is being consumed, stored and lost to transpiration from the result of the millions of mouths to feed. You would have to include this factor in order to properly diagnose our current water crisis.
          Forest fires and a robust animal population managed our underbrush and saplings for tens of thousands of years playing a vital roll in a healthy ecology.
          We’ve disrupted and intercepted mothers natures ways of creating balance.
          I’m not saying this theory is the cause of our problems entirely, I believe it is another factor in a cumulative mess caused by poor land management and stewardship by a society of finger pointers and tax collectors.
          Natives had a saying that to be Spiritual was to be Human and to be Human was to be a Stewart of the Earth.

    • Well put, you said it all brother, you said it all.

    • The 500 gallon per pound number was without pulling out the stops and applying greater spacing and the most vigilant water monitoring.

      • Also the test plot had around one third sour d. that came in early and dragged the average down as well.

    • They only listen to agribusiness and other politicians.

    • great idea but unpermitted ponds like houses roads and water storage are illegal.

    • “Ponds would have additional benefits to the community and should be encouraged by the state and county governments, both of which should be providing technical help and a streamlined permitting process. The ponds created would provide emergency water for wild land fire fighting.”

      Uti, that would make too much sense, that will never happen. It has long been my contention that every possible piece of land should have a pond on it. Just think of the benefit to the environment, the critters, and the ground water recharge. The streams would stay fuller, the fish would be happier.

      For a long time real estate developers were building ponds on every piece of property possible. Some were poorly build and washed out causing damage downstream. Ponds got a bad rap because of that. Now anyone is lucky to have a pond.

      • I noticed a new pond on Briceland Road between the fire station and Perry Meadow/Elk Ridge road that was built last year. I wonder if they got a permit. From the dirt road up to the meadow junction I can see it’s lined and very nicely done. There used to be a time when the agricultural extension services would help farmers build ponds, we need that again. A neighbor of mine has a beautiful pond that was built years ago, but which leaked because it was not professionally built and needed sealing with bentonite or a liner. Now it’s just a vernal pool that holds a few inches in the rainy season.

        • Ponds require extensive permits and approval if they are located inside of a watershed (very broad spectrum now)
          However, if your location is outside of a watershed and you intend to fill the pond with rain water the only requirement is a Grading permit and plot plan. (You bypass something like 12 different agencies)
          If your damn is over 25′ in elevation above grade, engineering is required.
          If soil contains 30% or more of Clay, 100% compaction can be achieved using the proper roller compactor with 8-12″ lifts.
          3 Test holes should be dug within the site and sent out for soil analysts to determine if they pond can be built without a liner. Anything less than 30% a liner would be required to prevent loss.
          A properly built pond is one of the greatest assets you can create on your land for yourself and nature.

    • patrick shannon

      Very much appreciate your thoughtful comments, Uti.

  • a huge water take is the only explanation for all the water delivery trucks on the roads. it’s coming from somewhere, and its coming all summer long.

  • From beef industry site…

    Q.  How much water do cows drink per day? (July 18, 2012)

    A.  Water requirements for beef cattle depend on weight, stage of production (such as lactation), and temperature. As you increase weight, the amount of water needed also increases. Same holds true for temperature, as temperatures increase, so does water intake. Also, if the animal is lactating, water requirements also increase.

    Following are some thumb rules on water intake that may be helpful.

    Daily water intake may vary from 3 to 30 gallons per day depending on age, body size (weight), stage of production and the environment (mainly air temperature).As a rule of thumb, consumption will range from 1 gallon per 100 pounds of body weight during cold weather to nearly 2 gallons per 100 pounds of body during the hottest weather.Lactating cows require nearly twice as much water compared to dry cows.Clean fresh water free of manure, dirt, and other debris is important.

    Dr. Rick Rasby, Professor of Animal Science
    Animal Science, University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Lincoln, NE

    • Add to that the amount of alfalfa hay a diary cow consumes any you got a real water sucking issue in the big picture of water use in California since alfalfa hay production alone uses 15% of the state’s water and most of that hay goes to cows, but the local problem is there aren’t many cows in the watersheds that are going dry and killing salmon and steelhead. Both issues are real, but need different solutions. The alfalfa and cows are being grown with irrigated water in the Central Valley and the pot is being grown with water diverted from springs and small salmon bearing streams up in our hills. Yes, you can make the case that all the rivers that feed the Central Valley agriculture system support or once supported salmon runs, but still it’s a separate issue.

  • Agreed… We should look at the bigger picture and allow ponds and recommend them, but instead fish and game calls them grading violations and goes after the land owners.

  • Uti’s right, of course, and the impacts are non-negotiable, so the internal conflict this creates — habitat-love vs. authoritarian-hate — has given me a headache… again. Divided loyalties, divided mentalities, greed and stupidity and pusillanimity and survival instincts, immortal carrion birds plucking away at home… again… still… idiotically… perennially…. We need unity and our whole society is designed to prevent it.

    • I share your headaches and everything you wrote resonates with me too. In my fantasies, if I were the benevolent dictator there would be price supports for salmon-friendly pot as a way to get the industry motivated to clean up it’s practices. I’d have my corps of engineers out there digging free ponds and loaning pumps to fill them in winter.

      • Bless your HEART… and MIND. We need to get out in front of this, not leave it to the bureaucrats and habitat rapists to just ruin.

        I was against legalization for a long time because it only spelled home desecration by the big boys to me, and I know too many people who can’t pay their property tax or medical bills or kids’ tuition without that income. I changed my mind when I found out how many horrific illnesses could be treated and/or cured by pot, but I still don’t want ANY more habitat loss on the north coast.

        I was born here. I have loved here. I have cried my heart out in these trees. I have sat by ridiculously little streams with salmon not even half submerged, struggling up to their reward, rooting for them, yelling with solidarity at every inch of beauty. I have fought and fought and fought for home for my whole life, and here it is again. Relentless.

        This is disgusting, and I will vote for you as benevolent dictator… or be your campaign manager.

  • patrick shannon

    Showing his willingness to misrepresent the truth, Scott Bauer cites “Habitat Destruction” at 9:45 which is a known active landslide awakened by a Caltrans project 100 feet away! And this he has used as a criticism of growers… I own the property shown in the photographs and this report is a completely fraudulent account of the events that took place at Katherine Creek. I am going to seek legal counsel. This is not an honest report. This is propaganda, and the only science involved is political science, the Machiavellian kind.

  • Enlightening discussion, thanks everyone. In a few short years all this will be rather moot. MJ will be legal and certified growers will be required to abide by tax laws and environmental regs. around growing. No way of knowing how many growers will survive this scenario, but my guess is that Humboldt will have a massive decline in MJ cultivation due to competition/price/ supply and failure to ‘abide’. The water will run back into the rivers. I look forward to that day. Enough is enough.

    • We’ll have a better idea what a legalization initiative will look like by the end of the year I hope. The big question is whether the production will be given to the richest corporations who can raise the funds to build big commercial grows or whether the initiative will be modeled more like alcohol production with many small producers. No matter which it will take several years for the new system to be implemented. That means changes to the Emerald Triangle economy will be slow because until recreational and medical marijuana is legalized in all states the black market will still be operating to export pot out of state.

      The second big question is whether the California initiative will overtax production causing the price to remain high. If it is overtaxed then the black market continues to be incentivized to compete with legal pot, just as it is doing in Colorado.

      Hoping legalization will cure the environmental problems of pot cultivation in the Emerald Triangle is a bad gamble in my opinion. It’s going to take a lot of work and inducements to get growers to adopt better cultivation practices.

      • this has been excellent input from you today Uti, thanks for it, above and beyond I say.

        Most informative.

        • grr, I don’t have TV, so instead in my evening free time I follow a whole bunch of blogs and webnews sites on subjects that interest me like cannabis, water, photography and more. I care about the fish and I live in a pot growing community with people I care about too.

          So I don’t see that growing pot and wanting to protect salmon as mutually exclusive—we can have both, but it’s going to take some cultural shifts in the community to step out of the past and bring marijuana cultivation into the legal agricultural community and right now is a good time to start since the scale of cultivation is undeniably causing environmental problems. To me marijuana should be treated more like alcohol, both for the production as well as the social problems it causes from user abuse and the crime the black market attracts to our area.

  • Lets use some measure Z money to fund rain catchment systems for homes/gardens. Its amazing to see how much water collects into pickle barrels just off the chicken coop roof!! Remember we have had some late storm seasons, snow in Garberville in April 99 I think (kym??) This next storm is bring high elevation snow. Perhaps winters showing up late! I think if someone complains about rain they shuld be banned from the county! 🙂 I miss our serious winters in so hum!!

  • Thank you kym&all, this is the kind of comment section I had hoped for!!!! Incredibly informative discussions & folks sharing ideas without nasty remarks. There are so many amazing people here with a wealth if experience&knowledge. Thanks to them for sharing.
    So if mj was legal across the board, would mj farmers be able to be subsidised? I heard Lundberg organic rice farms in Ca have already done so this year. The price is gonna skyrocket!

  • I am loving this conversation and the idea that watershed communities might get ahead of the impending regulations, establishing values and methods that will support reasonable agriculture AND fish and wildlife. I spent 10 years in regulation as a water quality engineer for the state water board, and now I do habitat restoration and help people comply with regulations. It’s so much better if people can and will use ingenuity and self motivation to conscientiously solve problems around shared natural resources. Humboldt could be a model for other agriculture – based communities. You already have a decent established social network (no small thanks to Kym), and you have LOTS of smart and engaged people (Uti, particularly, shines in this thread, but also many others, such as Patrick, Waterdog, Hooktender, Ed, Henry, and others) who are looking beyond us – them mentality to take responsibility and look deeper for solutions. I find this really exciting and inspiring, and I look forward to following what happens next.

  • there may even be justification for a water tank subsidy (I heard that…haha) instead of spending money on enforcements and regulations and inspections and all the legal folderol, simply subsidize water tanks…not huge ones, but many of them. Call it the south humboldt county rural water reserve system or whatever.

    Water bladders or fixed tanks that do not require huge amounts of grading but instead could be safely put on a smaller pad maybe of sand instead of a graded giant pad with it’s attendant dust issues.

    Just a thought..but I’d rather see a whole lot of small tanks and water bladders littering a grow than huge ones of a similar volume.

  • The daily diversions are most likely from vegetation collectively over the entire stretch of the water shed.
    The volume of water will vary from time of day to temperature, during the hottest part of the day the trees will aggressively pump and store water releasing a percentage back into the source only after temperature cools.
    The remaining percentage it pumped will be lost to transpiration.
    One example would be a large Oak Tree will transpire up to 40,000 gallons of water per year. Bay Laurel or Peeper Woods consume much more. Conifers are more efficient although collectively it adds up at the end of the year.
    While working in stream and river restoration we would witness the level of a creek drop up to 6″ during the peak heat of the day. By evening time the trees would start to release and the water table would rise again.
    Since our forests are no longer managed by wild fire there is millions of small trees and brush crowding out and sucking the tributaries dry, enough to possibly show volume fluctuations on the main fork of the EEL.

  • Did I miss the part where he talks about solutions. He clearly doesn’t like water storage, so what are people supposed to do?

    • If you watch the video, he does show ponds that he says are good examples.

    • There are many options.
      First, calculate how much water you consume over the period of one year.
      This can be done by averaging gallons per minute with each consumption activity multiplied by the amount of uses in a year period.
      Add a additional 10-20% on top of that number for a safety cushion.
      Second, start entertaining the options to store the amount of water necessary for you’re yearly use.
      The options vary on many factors mainly do to application but include plastic water tanks up to 5000 gallons , you can daisy chain as many of them together to meet your needs. As long as the individual tanks are less that 5000gal a permit is not required.
      You can order custom tanks up to 100,000gal that require extensive permits and engineering and are quite expensive.
      Water batters are the least expensive option when it comes to enclosed storage at about .08cents per gallon. Plastic tanks come in about .50cents per gallon, steel/aluminum can be $1 or more a gallon.
      Labor and installation are separate cost unless you do it yourself of coarse.
      Any grading where 50 yards of material will be moved requires a permit. (Keep it under 50 yards)
      The absolute best solution for bulk storage and cost per gallon is a farm pond. The price will vary from many variables.. contractors, permits and engineering (if necessary) topography, geology, etc.

      All of these applications can be filled by rain water which does not require Fish and Game to be involved and loosens the bureaucratic mess that deters people from becoming good Stewarts of their land.
      If you cannot do it all at once, start with a plan and chip away at it every year until your needs are met.
      Thinning saplings and underbrush from your creek lines, forest and meadows is also a way to improve water flow.
      Look into the private sector for advice on proper forest management.
      Your land is not only a asset for yourself but our ecology as a whole.

  • Great to see so much intelligent, civil, thoughtful commentary. This comment thread is an example of how constructive online discussion CAN be, when we make it that way. Thanks to all of you, and special thanks to Kym!

  • This has been a great thread of comments. Nice work to all those contributing ideas on this and other challenging subjects. (High fives to Kym for creating some well appreciated fertile ground for healthy community narratives.)

    Here’s a link to some new models showing the northward projected migration of ocean species. I found this news while exploring the Olympic Peninsula this past December. (Where the sweet stench of rotting Coho carcasses still fills the air of protected ancient forests.) A warmer climate and ocean may push Coho northward despite our restoration efforts. Sad for sure. Scientists are projecting up to a 30 kilometer per decade move north for species that need colder water, as well as some species heading north just to follow food sources. This doesn’t mean we should turn our backs on recovery. We need everybody on board to create the conditions needed for healthier watersheds.

    http://www.nwfsc.noaa.gov/news/features/climate_change/index.cfm

  • I’d also like to add that there are huge springs on private property that people are using for massive gardens and also selling the water. They don’t have to be sucking directly out of the main fork of the Eel to effect the water flow.

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