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In The News…

RCD Cites Efforts in Conservation, Cooperation

By Anthony E. Larson
October 24, 2002
Modoc Record

The cooperative efforts of two area ranchers and the Central Modoc Resource Conservation District (CMRCD) were on display last Friday. Local officials representing several state and federal agencies as well as interested landowners attended a riding tour of two recent projects hosted by the district's staff.

First was a wetland enhancement project on the Curt Talbott property on the south side of Alturas where there were ongoing problems with bank erosion and poor wildlife and fish habitat along the South Fork of the Pit River. "Our big problem," says landowner Talbott, "was that the cattle were softening the banks of the river, and then the water would come up there in the wintertime and wash all that softened dirt away. Slowly but surely they were impacting the bank and the flow of the river. So we started out with a project to fence off the river from the cattle and let the banks grow back naturally."

Second on the tour was much further south on the Pit River in Likely where Likely Land & Livestock had participated in a conservation program to stop stream erosion. "Our project incorporated some stream bank stabilization with rock and willow armament to eliminate future flooding," says owner John Flournoy. "The other thing it incorporated was cleaning up a watering area we had for our livestock in confinement."

Central Modoc RCD is one of five that serve Modoc County. They are an arm of local government dedicated to the promotion of better soil and water conservation practices. Working closely with other local, state and federal agencies, the RCD's throughout the state provide services that those agencies cannot provide, assisting area ranchers and farmers with funding and direction to solve difficult conservation issues.

According to Modoc County Supervisor Patricia Cantrall, who attended the tour, "They (RCD's) are one of the greatest assets the state of California has."

Cliff Harvey, watershed coordinator for the CMRCD, makes more modest claims, but is no less enthusiastic about the role the district plays. "A lot of people don't realize Modoc County is one of the best examples in the country right now of locally led conservation efforts that show cooperation among the agencies and the private landowners," he says. We're not putting it (the Pit River) back to nature, but we are making it so that it functions more like a natural stream and has better water quality and better habitat features. Experienced in watershed management, Harvey coordinates with the landowners to find solutions to their water and land management problems.

"Working with these folks has been ust marvelous," affirms Talbott. "They get all the permits; they take care of all the details; they find the money. It's always cost sharing, but basically they pick up the lion's share. I never feel worried, like I am going to get in over my head with them. I know we'll work it out some how. So, I'm very happy about it. I'm looking forward to the next project."

"It was a win/win situation," adds Flournoy. A win for the Pit River committee to clean the water, reduce the erosion and we picked up a little bit of acreage that we could feel comfortable irrigating.

"A conservancy district is a local entity, authorized by state law. Volunteer directors appointed by County Board of Supervisors govern the CMRCD. Each district is geared to the special needs of its area. Different districts have different concerns," observes Harvey.

The Clean Water Act lists the Pit River as an impaired water body, according to Harvey, opening the door to heavy regulations in the future. Our district has decided that it would be better if we start thinking about those problems before new regulations become a part of our life up here. We don't need any more regulations, and we don't need any more erosion. Everybody can agree on that. That's our strategy: to head off more regulations by improving water quality.

Typically, a landowner will contact the conservation district office in Alturas seeking advice or assistance. Since the district has no regulatory function and thus enforces no laws, it acts only in advisory capacity, laying out a plan and then securing the funding to implement the plan.

"We are entirely grant funded," explains Harvey. We have to go compete for the money that we use. Our projects wouldn't get funded if they didn't have some merit. Since administrators of the grant money are very careful about how they allocate their funds, only the most worthy projects find financing. "Landowners themselves make major in kind contributions of work, time, and equipment. We get great economy for our projects and reduce the reliance on tax dollars by having the landowners work with us," Harvey points out.

Looking into the future, the CMRCD hopes to continue to contribute to area resource conservation efforts.

"We are trying our best to just anticipate what the problems are and seek solutions that we can all live with before somebody from out of town comes and tells us how to do it," says Harvey. "And we think, that in the long run, that's the happiest way to get things done."