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What's the Price of This River?

Local land developer, Barry Swenson, is a controlling stakeholder in the organization that regularly drains this Modoc County river which is habitat to endangered and threatened species.
Two fiery and heated scoping sessions were held Wednesday, June 15th in Likely, California, with FERC officials and representatives of the National Forest Service and BLM on a proposed small hydropower project on the South Fork of the Pit River in Modoc County.

Nicholas Josten, of Idaho Falls, Idaho, has filed a request with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to a develop a 2.6-megawatt hydropower project that would take advantage of an existing South Fork Irrigation diversion dam and ditch leading to the West Valley Reservoir east of Likely, California.

Modoc County's South Fork of the Pit River is a sleepy little river which flows an average of 44 cubic feet per second on a yearly basis, winding through a gorgeous rock studded canyon where the Hammawi Indian band used to roam. Numerous Native American cultural and historical sites can be found throughout the entire project area.

Home to threatened redband trout, rainbow trout,
endangered crayfish and the Modoc sucker, mussels and other aquatic life, bald and golden eagles wing upon canyon breezes and majestically soar overhead while scores of recreational tourists hike, camp and fish along it's banks.

The beautiful, majestic splendor is endangered due to California's grab for land and the water rights that go along with it. Many ranchers have sold out and large corporate ranching operations have purchased the small ranches, including Alturas Ranches, owned by multimillionaire Silicon Valley Land Developer, Barry Swenson, members of his family, various partners of his and his Green Valley Corporation. As a result, they hold an almost sixty percent control of the South Fork Irrigation District (SFID) a public entity, and a controlling share of the water rights of the South Fork of the Pit River.

During winter, the SFID virtually drained the river during its annual seasonal diversion, claiming a right to do so, under an antiquated 1934 agreement and in violation of current California Public Trust laws which require operators of dams to maintain a healthy fish habitat.

From 1943 to 2002, the SFID has drained the river over six hundred times, destroying fish habitat. In February of this year, parts of the
river was reduced to mudbeds, disallowing habitat for the endangered redband trout and killing the crayfish and the mussels when levels were unreadable due to lack of flow.

Now Swenson and the SFID, with an Idaho hydroelectric developer propose to install a hydroelectric plant on this river, reducing flow
sixty to ninety three percent, to 7.5 cubic feet per second which will create the same effect year around. The Idaho hydro developer, in
charge of the project, and members of the SFID have stated Swenson has offered to pay for the studies and arrange a partnership to finance the

The project would use the SFID's diversion canal which carries water to a large reservoir will pay their maintenance expenses as well as
water costs of their approximate $1.53 per acre per year, as well as the salary of their private water master.

The SFID has stated they have difficulty paying
for the maintenance of their canal (which has breached on several occasions) and for installation of fish screens to protect the fish, needing the project to pay those expenses.

However local landowners discovered on March lst, the SFID filed an application with FERC for a huge multi million hydro project, at Lassen
County's Moon Lake, in which they stated the funding to finance the construction.

Ramifications of their plan include: 1) Swamps 2) dried mudstreams in some portions of the river; 3) decreased land values for area property owners; 4) public health hazards with mosquito infestation; 5) High power poles and power lines constructed on Native American cultural sites rising alongside Juniper and Ponderosa pines; 6) a plain metal building encasing turbine engines and a generator along a scenic stretch of highway and upon the streambed; 7) Dewatering and virtually
draining three miles of river, including two and one half miles of national forest land.

One of these private lands is private conservation land scheduled to be placed into a land trust as a conservation easement. Neither Swenson nor his representatives have returned landowner telephone calls after disregarding promises to meet.

Photographs of the devastation to the river during winter at the same
proposed levels can be seen at­bruzzones2000/album?.dir=mail&­.src=ph&s...

Testimony was heard from the developer, Nick Josten who advised he had no definitive site as of yet for Power Plant B. Opponents questioned
how a proper environmental impact study could be prepared with no definitive site for the power plant structure.

Josten's presentation included statements that revenue would be provided to the depressed county as a result of the project. Opponents
questioned the SFID, a public entity's extent of involvement as revenues and properties owned by the public entity would not be taxable. Josten refused to state what participation the SFID would have in the project or what ownership stake had been awarded to the District. He also refused to address the level of participation and ownership of Barry Swenson. The opponents stressed a socio-economic impact study could not be property conducted without such knowledge.

During the course of the hearing, it was noted that the previous day, landowners had directed FERC personnel, National Forest personnel and
BLM personnel to a site where skeletons of dead, endangered Shasta crayfish had been discovered under high levels of silt, which had been
dumped into the river the previous November, due to SFID diversion canal maintenance difficulties. As well, the nest of a bald eagle was noted within the BLM 31 acre property where Power Plant B was intended.

During the course of the hearings, testimony was given to other endangered species within the river environment, including the modoc
sucker, the Shasta crayfish, wolverines, as well as the threatened redband trout.

The developer stated the SFID would be responsible for the maintenance of the project, to which landowners strenuously objected due to the lack of maintenance on the canal previously, which lead to the earlier demise of endangered species as well as photographs were displayed
regarding the draining of the river. Opponents advised FERC the SFID had drained the river on 622 occasions between 1940 and 2002, in
violation of agreements of minimum bypass flows established by the SWRCB in 1976.

Native ancestral areas and cultural sites were discussed by the Hammawi Indian Band and they unequivocably stated they were opposed to the
project. It was noted that one landowner was in the process of establishing a conservation easement on forty acres of river property
which facilitated one quarter mile of river, to protect the habitat and the Native American historical and cultural sites. Concern was
expressed over dewatering of the three mile area, which included this property.

Landowners expressed concerns about high levels of e-coli within the river. Supervisor Cantrall rebutted the preliminary study arguing
large numbers of the Rainbow Coalition who camped upstream in July of 2004 contributed to the levels. However, she did not address the high levels discovered months prior to the arrival of the Rainbows and levels rose to extremely high amounts tripling from 687 in
August, almost a month after they left to 1990 two months after they had left. Nor did she address the high levels downstream and upstream
in May and June of 2004 when the Rainbow Coalition was not present in the area.

Concerns were expressed over possible SFID violations of the Brown Act and the refusal of the SFID and the developer to provide the public
with information in compliance with State of California public information laws. Supervisor Cantrall advised FERC that the SFID had complied with public notification laws, placing notifications in the window of the Likely Cafe, where she worked as a part time waitress.
She indicated with her fingers and thumbs an area of approximately 4" X 6" size of notification which she claimed was always placed in the window 72 hours prior to meetings of the SFID. The opinion of the California State Attorney General dictates that public notice be placed in a facility that is not locked and accessible to the public 24 hours day day, during that 72 hour minimum notification period to allow members of the public the opportunity to view the notice and the agenda of the meeting.

Cantrall, a former post master, gave no reason as to why notices were not posted within the local post office, a facility whose lobby is open twenty four hours a day, a few doors down from the local cafe and where all citizens are required to get their mail since there is no mail service in Likely, California.

The hearings were heated as the three ranchers and the developer faced off against a room of concerned landowners and local citizens. Some
landowners were in tears as emotions ran high over discussion of the project, concerned not only about the level of damage to the
environment, but the loss of their retirement assets and devaluation of their properties. Most of the twenty affected landowners living in the canyon are retired and some testified they invested their entire retirements into the river property.

One of the three ranching SFID interests who testified stated he was behind the project because he was to receive $2,000,000 as a result. Upon being questioned how the amount they were to receive was determined to be
$2,000,000, he wasn't able to answer, merely stating, "That's what they told me."

Josten did state it was the estimated cost of the infrastructure of the project however refused to give a detailed statement on any agreement between him and the SFID, a public entity.

Swenson's representative threatened landowners and opponents, "You people will find yourselves living in a community that hates you if you
continue this!" (meaning opposing the project)

"That's fighting words," one landowner responded.

"We have a right to know." another landowner responded, "especially when a public entity is involved in decisions that adversely affect the
public trust and our properties."

It should be noted that the "community" the representative was speaking of failed to show up to support the ranchers in their support of the
project and a local poll indicates they support the landowners and are opposed to the project.

The only person who appeared in support of the SFID members was Supervisor Cantrall, who publicly complained to FERC that landowners
were angry over her stance and accused her of "being bought" despite the fact that landowners have yet to research the political contributions received by Cantrall since her election victory in 2000, when she took office.

At the close of the evening, Cantrall advised the audience, "Modoc County will have the final word."

A member of the Hammawi Band immediately leapt to his feet and rebutted, "WE will have the final word." reinforcing the position statement by the Hammawi Band earlier in the evening that cited FERC rules that when federal projects
adversely affect Native American ancestral lands, FERC is responsible for adopting the Native American Tribal position.

Despite statements received by representatives of the Modoc County Board of Supervisors that the project was never placed on the agenda of any Modoc County Board of Supervisors meeting, Cantrall advised federal authorities and placed on public record the matter had been before the Board of Supervisors.

The matter had, however, been brought before the Modoc County Planning Commission in January of 2003, when during an environmental impact meeting, it was found there was considerable opposition. Modoc County Planning Division later dropped their CEQA investigation when the developer determined to place the project on public National Forest and BLM lands.

To file a comment regarding your views on this project, letters should be addressed to: Jane Biggerstaff, 800 12th Street, Alturas, California 96101 and e-filed comments can be made at, under e-filing and docket number P-12053.

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Re: What's the Price of This River?

Please file a comment regarding your views on this project, letters should be addressed to: Jane Biggerstaff, 800 12th Street, Alturas, California 96101 and e-filed comments can be made at, under e-filing and docket number P-12053

Hydroelectric plant proposed on the South Fork of the Pit River

Under Federal Energy Regulation Commission Application P-12053, Nicholas Josten of Idaho filed an application to construct a hydroelectric plant upon the South Fork of the Pit River, located in rural Modoc County. This project proposes to generate electrical power for a maximum of 2200 households.

As partners, the South Fork Irrigation District of Likely, California and Barry Swenson of Alturas Ranches who is financing the studies and arranging for the financing of the million plus dollar project, propose to divert 100 cubic feet from a river that hardly runs 45 cubic per second during average years along a three mile stretch of scenic roadway that runs alongside Jess Valley Road. The river is home to the endangered red band trout and the project site is proposed to sit on a 31 acre piece of BLM property, situated between two private residences and in the midst if a small residential area.

Swenson, a multimillionaire Silicon Valley Builder and Land Developer, dba Green Valley Corporation, and a sixty percent stakeholder in the South Fork Irrigation District, owns much property in Santa Clara, Monterey, Marin, Alameda, Fresno, Contra Costa, San Joaquin, Yuba, Sutter, Sonoma and Modoc Counties and builds major hotels and commercial buildings. He started acquiring property in Modoc County in 1997.

Posted by BenFishin on Saturday, June 11


Re: What's the Price of This River?

From the Folsom Telegraph 6/7/05


Grab for land hurting environment

By: Steve Bruzzone Vacaville
Tuesday, June 7, 2005 5:00 PM PDT

Modoc County's South fork of the Pit River, a popular recreational site located in National Forest is endangered due to California's grab for land and accompanying water rights. Large corporations replacing small ranchers, including Alturas Ranches, owned by multimillionaire Silicon Valley land developer Barry Swenson, members of his family, various partners of his and his Green Valley Corporation have gobbled up the land and water rights and now hold an approximate 60 percent control of the water rights of the river and control of the SFID, a public utility company.

This year, the SFID drained the river during its annual seasonal diversion, claiming rights under a 1934 water right, which is in violation of current California Public Trust laws requiring operators of dams to maintain healthy fish habitats. Fish disappeared and all that remained were cloudy pools of water and layers of mud.

They propose installation of a small hydroelectric plant on public land taking 100 cfs from the flow year around justifying the need to pay irrigation costs of $1.53 per acre a year for water and maintenance. The proposed flows are only two cfs higher than the ones, which result in destroyed habitat.

Just when is enough enough?

Re: What's the Price of This River?

Some great photos of this area:

Re: What's the Price of This River?

This is horrible. Why isn't the state letting this happen?

Re: What's the Price of This River?

Take them to court.

October 2004

District Court Holds that Bureau Violated California Law by Failing to Maintain Historic Fish Populations in the San Joaquin River
Natural Resources Defense Council v. Patterson, ___F.Supp.2d___ Civ. S-88-1658 LKK (E.D. Cal. Aug. 27, 2004)

Judge Lawrence K. Karlton of the United States District Court for the Eastern District recently held that the United States Bureau of Reclamation (Bureau) violated California Fish and Game Code § 5937 by failing to maintain historic fisheries in the San Joaquin while operating the Friant Dam.


This dispute had it genesis in 1988 when environmental groups sued the Bureau of Reclamation and the Friant Water Users Authority over the operation of Friant Dam, which caused long stretches of the river to dry up. That action alleged, among other things, that the Bureau violated state law, specifically Fish and Game Code § 5937, by failing to release sufficient water below Friant Dam to maintain historic fisheries in the San Joaquin River. Fish and Game Code § 5937 requires the owner of a dam to allow sufficient water to flow below the dam “to keep in good condition any fish that may be planted or exist below the dam.?

Re: What's the Price of This River?

From the Modoc County Record 6/23/05

West Valley hydro plan creates problems

Distraught residents and landowners made emotional statements and fired critical questions during two intense scoping meetings held at the Likely fire hall last week, voicing their opposition to the proposed hydroelectric power project in West Valley, east of Likely on the South Fork of the Pit River

Federal Energy Resource Commission (FERC) staff members conducted the meetings to gather public opinion regarding the future project.

As proposed, the project would consist of two small hydroelectric turbine generators, one located near the West Valley Reservoir dam and the other near the Jess Valley highway at the bottom of the canyon where Short Creek spills into the South Fork. Both plants, with a combined output of about 2600 kilowatts-enough to power about 2,000 average homes-would use water diverted from the South Fork River by an existing canal owned and operated by the South Fork Irrigation District (SFID)


Re: What's the Price of This River?

heres another case on irrigation water rights.

Tuesday, May 4, 2004

Supreme Court rejects water division case
Environmentalists say decision helps protect wild salmon


SPOKANE -- The U.S. Supreme Court declined yesterday to hear an appeal of a lower court decision that the government can close irrigation ditches crossing U.S. Forest Service land to provide additional water to help endangered fish runs.



Tip of the Day: Did you read something interesting in the corporate media? Then publish to "the otherpress" newswire on SC-IMC which is located below the "Local Interest" and "Elsewhere" newswires.

"The Other Press was designed to alleviate the reposting of articles already published elsewhere to the newswire while still allowing the availability of that information to be publicized."

Then, you can paste a link from the otherpress article here into the comment section. thanks for your understanding. It is YOUR VOICE that needs to be heard most!


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