Scott Valley

“Water is for fighting. Whisky is for drinking” Mark Twain 

By Keep Scott Valley Rural

A committee of concerned Scott Valley residents, water users and people who value the way of life ensured by the Scott Valley Area Plan and the Scott River Decree. 

Water is for fighting. Whisky is for drinking” Mark Twain 

Few people would criticize the small, locally led Kidder Creek Orchard Camp over the past four decades. Many of our children and grandchildren attended the camp to their benefit. However, the Kidder Creek Camp that we once knew is now owned by Mount Hermon, which was originally established in Santa Cruz, California. This debate is not about the past, it is about Mount Hermon’s desire to increase the business of the Kidder Creek Orchard Camp (Mount Hermon/KCOC) by nearly 80% in the coming decades.  We owe it to ourselves and the future generations to stop this type of corporate takeover.

Our fight is about our water, the most crucial of all of the Scott Valley natural resources.  We don’t think Mount Hermon/KCOC is being forthright about their need for Scott Valley water, both surface water and groundwater and therefore, we would like to outline the facts for you. 

On September 21, 2022, a monumental decision that could result in one of the most significant impacts to the Scott Valley in decades will go before the Siskiyou County Planning Department. The Commission, made up of five Siskiyou County residents, will make their vote on the expansion from Mount Hermon/KCOC’s application to increase their current use of 165 guests to 844 guests, staff and volunteers and expanding the footprint from 330 acres to 580 acres which, would along with a host of other expansions, includes more recreational areas and a new 7-acre pond. KCOC also plans to expand their season of operation from summer to year-round.

For years, the Scott Valley has experienced debate about the use of water and the impacts to the Scott River and the fisheries that rely on it. In particular, the agricultural community has received significant pressure to reduce the use of water in order to help protect fish. With the continued drought conditions, the pressure has been steadily increasing and most recently resulted in a requirement to stop irrigation use (regulatory curtailment) of much of the water in the Scott Valley.

Regardless of these local concerns, Mt Hermon/KCOC continues to push for a massive expansion, which would result in a substantial increase in use of Scott Valley’s water. Before we dive into Mount Hermon/KCOC’s request for their considerable water use increase, we need to understand Mount Hermon/KCOC’s current use.  This will help us understand the integrity of their words as represented in their application to significantly increase their business enterprise.

The Mount Hermon/KCOC water rights are associated with 37 acres. The irrigation ditch supplying the water was once known as R. Jones, and has the identified purposes of “domestic, stock watering, power purposes and for irrigation”. Barker Ditch, as the ditch is now known, has the rights to divert a total of 23 cubic feet per second (cfs), consisting of a 1st priority (highest priority) of 17 cfs and a surplus right (to be used only when all other water rights can be supplied with water) of 6 cfs.  The ditch has several users, including Mount Hermon/KCOC, and can be applied to a total 1615 acres.  The use of the water, which is diverted from Kidder Creek, is to be managed as defined by the Scott River Decree (see below).

In the Mount Hermon/KCOC application for expansion, they state that they intend to fill the proposed 7-acre new recreation pond with water from the Braker Ditch. To legitimize this plan, Mount Hermon/KCOC’s attorney, Allan B. Lilly, tries to make the argument that there is a “regulatory storage” right.  The decree states “Regulatory Storage is the collection of a direct diversion allotment in a reservoir in which water is held in storage for purposes of creating a convenient head for irrigation or other beneficial uses allowed herein, for less than 30 days before being withdrawn.”  In other words, even if they do have a right to store water (which is debatable per the provisions of the Scott Valley Decree), they can’t hold that water for more than 30 days. If the ditch goes dry at the first of July, water can’t be stored for the remaining Mount Hermon/KCOC season of August and September. 

Mount Hermon/KCOC claims “Consistent with our water rights in the Scott River Decree, the camp will utilize water from the Barker Ditch during surplus times of the year to fill the pond.”  Mount Hermon/KCOC fails to disclose that surplus rights are generally suspended in most years because they are considered junior or inferior to other rights within the decree during critically dry times of the year. As an example, surplus rights have been suspended in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2020, 2021 and 2022 and therefore when Mount Hermon/KCOC’s describes “all outside water use is accomplished by surface water from the Barker Ditch ” this is actually not achievable. In fact, the 2021 Barker Ditch’s report to the State Water Board says they divert virtually no water for much of June and all of July, August and September. They are most likely experiencing the same conditions this year.  See the report filed by a Barker Ditch water user below for 2021.

Furthermore, on July 14, 2022 all use of water in the Scott Valley fell under a curtailment set by the California State Water Resource Control Board. So while most of the Scott Valley have either turned off the water entirely or committed to reducing their water use by 30%, it appears that not only has Mount Hermon/KCOC not reduced their water in 2022 (see photos below of well-watered lawns as of August 28th and a full pond on July 29th), they make no concessions or disclosures on how they have or will bridge their water needs in dry years.  

The fact that they didn’t seem to adhere to the curtailments in 2022 and given there is no acknowledgment about curtailments or critically dry years and with no contingency plan on how they would address deficiencies, we can assume they have been and will continue to switch to groundwater when needed, something not disclosed in their application. 

This leads us to examine what we believe is an inaccurate claim made by Mount Hermon/KCOC about their future water needs. In Mount Hermon/KCOC’s own words, they measure their future groundwater use against the Scott Valley agricultural community stating “At 844 occupants our maximum daily use would be 38,000 gallons. In perspective, someone irrigating 100 acres of land in the valley would use approximately 812,000 gallons per day during their growing season. Our use is a small percentage of the overall use in the Valley.”

Besides trying to justify their water needs against what they appear to suggest as more extreme water use, they seem to underestimate their groundwater requirements. In their own words, “When looking at the impact of a domestic well on the groundwater supply, it is important to understand how the domestic use is different from other water uses from the aquifer. For the KCOC, the per capita water use is about 45 gpd. This is mostly because all outside water use is accomplished by surface water from the Barker Ditch.”  

We must ask ourselves and the Siskiyou County Planning Commission, when Kidder Creek fails to provide enough flow to divert the water necessary to irrigate their lawns, pastures, orchards and keep their 7 acre pond full, which was documented in 2021, where will the water come from?  

To give some perspective to Mount Hermon/KCOC’s claim that their groundwater use would only be 38,000 gallons per day, we looked at our two towns and found they represents their use is going to be approximately 90% less than either the Town of Fort Jones or the City of Etna, both with populations less than Mount Hermon/KCOC’s projected camp population.  Recognizing there are other water uses within the towns such as schools and restaurants, we do feel there are a lot of similarities that we can use to provide some insight.  Mount Hermon/KCOC’s groundwater estimates fail to consider groundwater most likely will be used to supplement the outdoor water, including the new 7-acre pond, the evaporation which is not insignificant, even by their own reports, and the additional outdoor recreational areas.  

PopulationJuly (gallons)August (gallons)September (gallons)Average (gallons)
KCOC (Proposed)8441,140,0001,140,0001,140,0001,140,000
Town of Fort Jones (2018)57811,160,00010,292,0009,540,00010,330,667
City of Etna (2021)75514,180,00011,930,0006,750,00010,953,333

On November 13, 1980, the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors approved the Scott Valley Area Plan that was developed by a group of Scott Valley community members based on “concerns about growth in the Scott Valley Watershed” and “citizens became concerned that their quality of life and natural resources were being depleted.”  That historic document has done an outstanding job of preserving the rural nature and agricultural economy of our Scott Valley community.  We believe that the Mount Hermon/KCOC expansion would have serious negative effects on the vital natural resource of water and therefore we must ask our current Siskiyou County Planning Commission to vote no on Mount Hermon/KCOC application and to maintain the integrity of the Scott Valley Area Plan and help preserve the Scott Valley water resources now and for generations to come.  


Keep Scott Valley Rural

A committee of concerned Scott Valley residents, water users and people who value the way of life ensured by the Scott Valley Area Plan and the Scott River Decree. 

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