About Shasta River CRMP/FAQ

About Shasta River CRMP

The Shasta River has long been recognized as the single most important spawning tributary for chinook salmon in the Klamath Basin. Counts of Fall Chinook returning to the Shasta (even after substantial declines) went as high as 82,000 in 1931. By the early 1990’s they had dropped to a little over 500. This decline prompted ranchers and other water users in the Shasta Valley to form the Shasta River Coordinated Resources Management and Planning committee (CRMP) in 1991. Their desire was to examine and understand the local factors that might be responsible for declines in anadromous fish, then find effective ways to reverse those declines. Since that time the Shasta CRMP hasbeen working on a variety of approaches to improving survival of salmon and steelhead in the Shasta River. The landowners who founded the Shasta CRMP recognized that many of the water quality problems that affect salmon were the result of the cumulative impacts of agricultural practices along streams in the Shasta Basin. The CRMP has directed many projects designed to help agricultural producers to include elements of salmon and steelhead conservation in their ongoing ranch activities. These projects include erosion control, installation of fish screens, outmigrant assisting pulsed flows, tree planting, livestock exclusion fencing, and irrigation tailwater recovery.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is there a CRMP?
Who is the CRMP?
What does the CRMP do?
Where does the money come from?
How does this affect my property rights?
Why should I participate?

Why is there a CRMP?

In 1991 Shasta Valley residents gathered to discuss the likelihood that anadromous fish in the Shasta and Klamath Rivers might be listed as either threatened or endangered, and what impacts such a listing might have on farming and ranching. Recognizing that such listings might occur at any time, and that their impacts could be severe, those progressive ranchers chose to from a local orgainzation that would work proactively to restore the fish and water quality of the Shasta River. It was their belief that restoring the Shasta River was one of the most important steps they could take to assure the continuation of their farming and ranching activities in the Shasta Valley

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Who is the CRMP?

The Shasta CRMP is a loose-knit organization, with voting participation open to any individual who owns land in the Shasta Valley (urban or rural, in any quantity). In addition to the above individuals, there are representatives from the three irrigation districts that withdraw water directly from the Shasta, one representative from the Klamath River Basin Fishery Task Force, and representatives from the California Department of Fish and Game, US Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the US Bureau of Land Management. All other persons with an interest in the activities of the Shasta CRMP can attend the meetings and take part in discussions, but voting is limited to the above stakeholders.

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What does the CRMP do?

The Shasta CRMP works with landowners to plan, secure funding for and carry out conservation projects on the Shasta River and its tributaries. Those projects are designed to improve conditions on the Shasta River which are currently thought to be limiting the production of anadromous fish. These limiting factors include elevated river temperature, excesive amounts of fine sediment in spawning gravels, excessively high nutrient levels, excessively low levels of dissolved oxygen, and inadequate flows. All projects are embarked on by the CRMP are voluntary, and must be acceptable to the owner of the land on which they occur.

Riparian Fencing

Fencing is one of the CRMP’s highest priorities. The negative effects of unrestricted grazing near rivers and streams are easy to see and can impact salmon and steelhead. The Shasta CRMP builds livestock control fences to give riparian zones a chance to recover from grazing and re-establish healthy vegetative cover. A riparian zone with healthy vegetation will mean more shading for the stream, greater filtration of irrigation tailwater, and more stable banks. Because these projects occur in the flood plain, fences must be built to last, with the best materials and with the toughest specifications Normally, the Shasta CRMP can secure funding for all fence construction costs, while the landowner provides routine maintenance for a minimum of ten years, and bears the cost of lost grazing in the area excluded from livestock.

Tree Planting

Tree planting usually complements livestock control fencing to rehabilitate the riparian zone. Habitat crews use rooted stock, seedlings and cuttings to revegitate banks to create a healthier, stabler riparian zone.

Bank Stablilization

Sediment can be quite a problem for anadromous fish. Spawning must take place in gravel beds, and salmon and steelhead eggs can be choked if large amounts of fine sediment are preaent in the gravel. In the Shasta, much of the fine sediment present comes from streambank erosion.. In some cases, this erosion is so rapid that livestock control fences alone are not sufficient to stabilize banks. Over the past ten years the CRMP has developed and improved bioengineered bank stabilization methods that provide temporary stabilization (5-10 years), long enough for natural vegetation to re-colonize the actively eroding sites and provide long-term stability. These structures are made of long willow bundles and selected plantings of trees and emergent vegetation that are secured to the bank in such a way that the bank not only stops eroding, but also collects drifting sediment to becomes a stable, organic structure. The result is a bank that is returned to the very slow processes of lateral migration typical of a healthy low-gradient stream, and a river that maintains a narrower and deeper channel.

Tailwater Projects

Tailwater can have quite an impact on salmon and steelhead. Water that has been spread out over a field and is then allowed to flow directly back into the river can carry high amounts of nutrients as well as substantial amounts of heat. CRMP projects dealing with tailwater include everything from low berms keeping irrigation water in fields, infiltration ponds where nutrients and temperature are left behind, and ponds in which tailwater can be captured for re-use. Future projects may include conversion to more efficient methods of irrigation, land leveling, and similar activities that will maintain agricultural productivity while minimizing adverse impacts.

Fish Screens

Irrigation water is frequently removed from rivers and streams in the Shasta Valley, creating a situation where juvenile fish can also be inadvertently diverted into fields and lost. Fish screens can prevent these losses by allowing water to be used, without accidentally killing fish. The Shasta CRMP works with the DFG, NMFS, and the landowner to select or create a design that will be as cost effective and trouble free as possible, then secures funding for its construction and installation. Fish screens provided by the Shasta CRMP currently include baffled tube screens, flat plate screens with electric motor driven wipers, and solar powered rotary drum screens.

Pulsed Flows

In 1992, Shasta CRMP staff noted that large numbers of juvenile salmon were apparently killed when water temperatures in the Shasta exceeded lethal limits in late May. In an effort to protect critical production, the Shasta CRMP devised a program of creating pulsed flows in the Shasta in May and June in low water years. This program is based on the voluntary participation of the major irrigation districts, along with most individual landowners along the Shasta, and involves the cessation of irrigation for two 48 hour periods, along with the temporary removal of four flashboard dams. The net effect of these actions is to create a pulse of stored water, followed by a period of unimpaired river flow during which time salmon smolts can readily exit the Shasta on their way to the ocean. This process is seen as a stop-gap measure to be used while working on the underlying water quality problems, and is undertaken whenever it appears that water quality conditions may become lethal before mid June.

Monitoring

In order to understand more about how to restore numbers of anadromous fish we need to know more about conditions in the Shasta Basin and how they are changing. This includes information concerning flow, temperature, dissolved oxygen, aquatic invertebrates, numbers of fish, etc. in adition, the CRMP monitors its restoration projects through time to find out what their impacts are.

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Where does the money come from?

Most CRMP projects are done at little or no out-of-pocket cost to the landowner. The CRMP uses state, federal, and private grant funds to do its work Past sources of funds have incuded the Calif. Department of Fish and Game, Calif. Water Quality Control Board, Calif. Department of Water Resources, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Bureau of Reclamation, National Marine Fisheries Service, the Siskiyou County Fish and Game Commission, and the Cantara Trust.

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How does this affect my property rights?

Property rights are a major issue in Siskiyou County, and for good reason.? There is a long tradition of agricultural communities in the area which we are all very proud of.? Government regulations can be very intimidating, especially as they apply to the way we use our land and thus our heritage.

It is important to remember that agriculture not only a way of life but an important business.? As a landowner, you must make decisions that are good for your operation, whether it be cattle, hay, row crops, or anything else.? The Shasta CRMP wants you to be able to make pro-active decisions about conservation issues on your property without having to come up with the money yourself.? We want you to be able to make a good business decision and help protect fish and wildlife resources in the Shasta Valley at the same time.? We don’t have any hidden agenda.? We want your land to be the best it can be for your business and natural resources.

Above all, CRMP projects are voluntary.? It is your decision, and your right to choose what it right for you, your property, and your business.

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Why should I participate?

Why should I participate? There are many issues currently affecting landowners that the CRMP directly deals with. Most importantly, CRMP projects are designed to protect endangered species, which is a topic that carries a lot of weight with regulatory and enforcement agencies. Projects can also benefit local wildlife, as salmon and steelhead restoration often requires the restoration of habitat. CRMP projects can help a landowner manage his land to the benefit of fish and wildlife without adversely affecting his agricultural production or his wallet. Conservation projects can be very good business. The CRMP gets its funding from state, local or private agencies, eliminating financial contributions from the landowner. In addition, these projects display your concern for and commitment to the stewardship of your land and the plants and animals which depend upon it. By being a pro-active manager, you take care of potential problems before they become worse and insure a brighter future for your land, business, and natural resources.