Northern exposure

Published: Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3E

Covering issues of Northern California.

Higher Shasta Dam would harm wild river

• SHASTA COUNTY – Curtis Knight, Mount Shasta Region manager of California Trout, would cast a line for trout almost anywhere in the world. But his favorite place is on the McCloud River, a cold-water stream that flows over spawning gravels as it winds through the forested canyons of Siskiyou and Shasta counties.

Today the remote, unspoiled McCloud and its wild trout fishery are engulfed in a controversy that involves water management throughout California. A plan to raise the height of Shasta Dam would inundate a stretch of the 13-mile free-flowing stream with sediment-filled flat water, which would prevent fish from spawning and eggs from hatching, said Steve Rothert, California director of American Rivers, a national rivers advocacy organization.

Officials of the Bureau of Reclamation, which operates Shasta Dam, believe fish would benefit from the additional water the 18 1/2-foot dam extension would provide. The bureau's main goal, however, is to make about 133,400 acre-feet more water available to Central Valley Project contractors and the State Water Project, which serves several water districts in Southern California.

Among the many hurdles to approving a higher Shasta Dam is the California Wild and Scenic River Act, which protects the McCloud River and specifically forbids any state agency from planning for or building anything that would affect it. And because the McCloud is eligible for federal Wild and Scenic River designation, all federal agencies – including the Bureau – are required to protect it, Rothert said.

That has two powerful Southern California water districts eyeing options. In December, directors of the Metropolitan Water District voted to lobby for changing the law so the state could help pay for raising the dam. In 2007, Westlands Water District paid about $33 million to buy 3,000 acres bordering the river in an apparent effort to control land along the McCloud.

In addition to "destroying" one of California's premier trout fisheries, spending $1.1 billion to raise the dam at a cost of $1,700 per acre-foot is not prudent, Rothert said: "It just doesn't make sense."

Coyote hunt concerns friends of wolf

• MODOC COUNTY – Wile E. Coyote and kin were up against about 200 hunters last weekend in the seventh annual Coyote Drive, a contest its sponsors designed to manage coyotes in the Big Valley area of Modoc County. Hunters competed for a gun, awarded to the pair that brought in the most carcasses.

The Pit River Rod and Gun Club and Adin Supply Outfitters, the competition sponsors, held the event despite complaints from animal rights activists, who called it an ethically indefensible and inhumane "killing contest." No one from the Rod and Gun Club was available to announce the winner to The Bee.

Opponents of the hunt are concerned about the safety of OR7, the only known wolf in California who spent much of last winter in the area. They are now seeking an investigation of Modoc County Sheriff Mike Poindexter, who they say defied laws prohibiting or regulating hunting on the rugged sage-covered hillsides owned by the federal Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. In a Feb. 7 letter to the Modoc County Register, Poindexter said he would not "tolerate any restriction of legal hunting on our public lands."

Judge dismisses former county exec's suit

• LASSEN COUNTY – Former Lassen County Administrative Officer Tom Stone will have to return to Susanville if he wants to pursue his $1 million wrongful termination lawsuit. U.S. District Court Judge Morrison C. England dismissed Stone's federal case, ruling that it was filed in an improper venue. England did not rule on the merits of Stone's lawsuit but said Stone's contract with the county requires that any disputes be settled in Lassen County Superior Court.

Stone was ousted in July 2011, seven months after starting the $120,000-a-year job, in a dispute over the interpretation of his contract, including medical and educational benefits. He named as defendants the three supervisors who voted to fire him: Jim Chapman, Jack Hanson and Bob Pyle. His firing also prompted an attempt to recall Hanson. The effort fell short when the county clerk invalidated the paperwork. That, in turn, prompted a writ of mandate by the recall proponents asking the court to force the clerk to accept the recall petitions.

– Jane Braxton Little / Special to The Bee

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