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Nick Hanna: Thanks for listening to our show The Barbless Fly Fishing Podcast. I'm your host Nick Hanna. I'm here with Chad Alderson now Uhtred, son of Uhtred.
Chad Alderson: Jeez, again?
Nick Hanna: with us we have a cool guest today Bryan McFadin not the one from the NFL but from the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board or quacked or Kirk? What's your acronym?
Chad Alderson: Everybody's got an acronym.
Byran McFadin: We're the the NoCo reward clock wobo. That's the best I can do.
Nick Hanna: Brian's a busy day travels all over the state obviously doing good stuff for our fisheries and he's been kind enough to come down and talk with us on his way to a project in Yreka.
Bryan McFadin: Yeah.
Nick Hanna: Awesome we'll thanks a lot. Thanks for coming in.
Bryan McFadin: Glad to be here.
Chad Alderson: You went out of your way to get Chico.
Nick Hanna: There are some good spots here we can. We'll fill you in after the show.
Chad Alderson: And before we get started I have an announcement to make.
Nick Hanna: Uh oh.
Chad Alderson: I got a flu.
Nick Hanna: Oh yeah.
Chad Alderson: I got the flu bad.
Nick Hanna: : Yeah. So if he sounds little nasally, that's why.
Chad Alderson: Yeah, it's not good.
Nick Hanna: Brian tell us a little bit about yourself. Tell us you know where you're from where you grew up and how you got into this industry.
Bryan McFadin: Sure. So I'm a product of the north coast.
Nick Hanna: I love it. So you grew up catching Steelhead and salmon your whole life.
Bryan McFadin: You know I didn't go Steelhead and salmon fish and as a kid very much. I definitely saw the trucks line and you know we went 62 on my way out of town. You know as a kid every every pull out was full of fishermen. And then you know there was a creek in my backyard and we find fish there you know we called him sore tails you know the Chinook that were a little fuzzy after making the trip and just hanging out. And I grew up in Covello in Round Valley Town Creek in my backyard. And pretty much every day in the summertime I went to the middle for Eel to go swimming because that's a great place for that. Yeah definitely school. And I just grew up around water and in creeks and rivers and when I left Covello I went up to Arcadia and went to school Humboldt State University studied environmental engineering and at first I thought I wanted to do energy resources and that sort of you know alternative energy approach. And then I realized well that's probably going to result in a job in a lab somewhere. And I really like hanging out on river so I want to be a river engineer and so I kind of you know focus my studies that direction and….
Nick Hanna: Very cool yet.
Chad Alderson: I notice like a lot of people that tend to get in your space. They knew what they wanted to do at a very young age.
Bryan McFadin: I feel fortunate that I did. You know we all know people who've gone to school for years and tried to figure it out and then hit the ground running it partly one of the reasons why I wanted to get into the river thing not just so I could hang out at rivers and you know stand on the banks. That's nice. But you know as a kid the decline of salmon and steelhead was really profound in my neighborhood. And you know just as a 20 year old I thought it was much I was much too young to be able to say you know when I was a kid there were fish in that river right. And so I got into that line of work partly to try to figure that out.
Nick Hanna: The Eel River system has the third largest the third largest river in California. Right?
Bryan McFadin: Yep.
Nick Hanna: And had the third largest run of salmon that ran up into the millions and now is down to a couple of thousand.
Bryan McFadin: There's a bit a bit of a resurgence there in the chinook run good. There's a group called the River Recovery project that's been doing a lot of citizen monitoring and they've documented that the runs are bigger than people had been assuming and a couple of years ago they counted upwards of 20,000 Chinook. Oh great. Yeah. Steelhead they're hard to count because they come in when the water's turbid.
Nick Hanna: Everyone says that when we talk to them and they say they're the hardest to manage.
Bryan McFadin: Yeah but there's a belief that they're there doing at least OK.
Nick Hanna: Right. Everything you read it says of all the drainage is the river has the best chance of bouncing back.
Bryan McFadin: I hope that's true. You know there's a lot of diversion of water that's happening now.
Nick Hanna: Which is what we brought you in here for.
Chad Alderson: Yeah.
Nick Hanna: Chad read an article about that.
Chad Alderson: So I think Liz our producer sent this to me that towards the end of last year and the article was on the KALW local public radio website it's entitled, "Legal or Not Cannabis Takes a Toll on Northern California Watersheds". So I read this article and Brian was quoted many times in it as the pretty much like the I would say the water for the forensic water guy detective that comes in and figures out what the heck is going on. Whether or not if it's dropping why it's dropping and also contributing to the findings of your department's publishing a report. I forget the name of the report. But can you can you talk a bit about that whole process like how did you land at that particular watershed. It was called Polk.
Bryan McFadin: Oh there were a number of streams that we were monitoring so yeah let me just tell you about that. Post creek downstream from the Trinity pines subdivision is sort of notorious for the concentration of cannabis activities that are going on there.
Chad Alderson: God bless 'em.
Bryan McFadin: Well so that project started out as sort of a local assistance kind of project. We're trying to help a local group go after some grant funds to address the low flow situation. And you know on the heels of the drought that terrible unprecedented drought that we had just recently experienced. Hopefully we won't see that again for a while too although it's about to be 70 here. So yeah. So it started out as a way of turning. Get them some grant assistance. And the idea was to kind of bracket water use in space and time with measurements. So we're looking at primarily the South Fork of the Trinity River but also some of the tributaries to the main stem of the Trinity River in that community. And so we laid out about I think those 33 sites that we monitored and we placed those sites above and below water use activities and some in-between. And then we started those measurements in the spring before people were using water
Chad Alderson: Just to establish a median?
Bryan McFadin: Yeah just to get before and after before during and after we took measurements about every month until October and November. We did this two years in a row and and found out some things about the hydrology in that watershed which are pretty interesting and can go to inform Grant development and some projects to address water conservation and some of those needs. But it also told us a bit about how we can go about doing our work a little better also and then give us some information that we can share with the State Water Resources Control Board's Division of Water Rights. So hopefully they can do what they do.
Nick Hanna: And they're the ones that implement the new law that might take place right?
Bryan McFadin: Yeah so that's that's kind of an exciting development in the last few months. The State Water Resources Control Board which full disclosure that's my agency's sort of parent agency under their umbrella. We have authority over discharge of waste. That's pretty wonky but people putting things in the streams and protecting water quality. The state board has that jurisdiction or they helped the regional boards in that regard. But they also have authority over how much water people can take out of the stream. So the divisional water rights handles that. And what the state board has done recently is adopted a cannabis regulatory program that kind of builds on a cannabis regulatory program that our region The North Coast region and Central Valley region had been implementing and they took those programs and you know, scaled up. So now it's a statewide program. And significantly what that program also has is a water rights component to it and the state board developed what's called a small-us registry of small use registration for cannabis growing activities. And what that is is water rights regulatory program to make sure that cannabis growers aren't impacting our creeks. And one of the requirements of that program is that people engage in cannabis growing activities are going to have to store their water collect their water in the wintertime stored in tanks or ponds for use in the summertime so that there won't be any diversion of that water out of the stream in the summertime.
Chad Alderson: Right. And you also in that article I read that you guys had figured out they were actually over watering the plants like they were putting in six gallons of water when in fact they only need two gallons of water and you guys were using water moisture meters to figure all that stuff.
Bryan McFadin: Well the way the way we estimated that was based on information that cannabis growers had submitted to us as part of our cannabis regulatory program. So our program had been in place for a couple of years. And you know we were starting to get enrollments and people engaged in the program part of that program has a monitoring and reporting element to it. And and we're requiring people to tell us how much water they used by month and where their sources were. And we use that information as well as some information about the number of plants they have and the size of their cultivated area to estimate the amount of water used per plant or that people where irrigating per plant and then extrapolate that to the rest of the cannabis operations that we had mapped from aerial photos. Right. And the goal of that was to estimate the total amount of use associated with cannabis and that watershed. We also did a similar analysis looking at water rights data associated with like residential uses and an irrigated your other traditional forms of agriculture to to estimate the total use in the watersheds. What is interesting is is cannabis activities irrigated agriculture and domestic use and particularly associated with municipalities there. There are all kind of on par. You know there's been sort of assumption that the cannabis use is really water intensive use and it certainly can be. But what was surprising to me was that it's not that much more use than what we're already seeing or we had been seeing before the green rush came along. And you know one of the things that I kind of regretted about that story from KW that you're referring to is that I just wish the message gotten across that before cannabis there were flow problems already.
Nick Hanna: Right.
Chad Alderson: That's a really good point because it didn't definitely didn't say that it made it look like it was the source or the sole reason why that creek had dried up and come July that creek went dry. This was a contributing factor.
Bryan McFadin: Yeah it is a contributing factor. That's good way to put it. The fish doesn't care where the water went. It just cares that the water is gone. And and it is true to say that the green rush resulted in a whole new category of water use that got added on top of the existing water use and caused problems where there weren't problems before. Although many places there were those problems and it's just making it worse.
Nick Hanna: How is it determined like if you if you own a house on a home and you live by a creek and you want to pump water out of it how does it determine how much you can you can pull out of it.
Bryan McFadin: It isn't. That's the problem.
Chad Alderson: So are the regs being thought about and codified right now?
Bryan McFadin: Well there's a complicated answer to that and it stems from the fact that California water law and water rights law is really complicated. You have different classes of water rights and there's different rules associated with just classes. So in your case where you're talking about somebody who has a home next to a stream you know streams going through their property they have a Riparian Water Right. And what that means is you know that the water is riparian to their land and they get to divert water if they're putting it to beneficial use. So applying the water for some economic gain or some benefit you know you can't just waste water. And the law says they can they can use as much of that water as they're putting to beneficial use. AND they don't have to apply for a permit or license. They only have to report how much they use to the state water board every three years. Then there's another class called The Appropriative Water Right. And and that would be for water right where you're going to take water and use it on a different piece of property or you're going to store it. So Riparian Water Rights you can't store water that makes it Appropriative and Riparian rights are free and Appropriative Rights you have to pay for it.
Chad Alderson: And Appropriative applies pretty much to the valley. I would guesstimate right? Although although the rice fields and all the farmers are diverting water left and right they're pumping it.
Bryan McFadin: Right. So it's kind of a perverse incentive - the law favors the most destructive use. So that's just one of the challenges. So this new program the State Waterboard has come out with basically has made the determination that it's unreasonable to divert water in the summertime for cannabis growing activities. There's only a few things that Trump Riparian Water Rights. One is waste. Another is unreasonable use it's just unreasonable to conduct things that way. So that's you know water lawyers will will get excited.
Chad Alderson: So I guess the begs the question what if I have a house by the side of the river and I grow weed. What is my incentive to even be on your guy's radar?
Bryan McFadin: Well the state has established this regulatory program in concert with Department of Food and Ag. And if you want to sell this product legally you're going to also have to be enrolled in the Water Quality Program to ensure that you're not violating anything (paraphrased).
Chad Alderson: Is there a fair amount - let's say out of 100 cultivation areas up there how many are actually above the board?
Nick Hanna: One percent... two percent?
Chad Alderson: Just roughly because this is the leading question for another one.
Bryan McFadin: Probably less than 10 percent. But you know things are changing quickly. Our program which was about two years old when when the State Board issued their program that replaced ours. Mean that was really new two years we estimate that there are something around 30,000 grow operations in our region. And yet our enrollments are probably a tenth of that or less so.
Chad Alderson: OK. So most of it's pretty much wild wild west it sounds like?
Bryan McFadin: Or I think a lot of people are waiting waiting to see what's really going to happen and whether anybody is really going to make them follow the law.
Nick Hanna: Who's going to do that?
Chad Alderson: If a lot of these folks are going under the radar. Are they kind of just basically raping and pillaging right now in terms of the ecology?
Bryan McFadin: It's all across the board. You know you have your ma-and-pa operations that you know maybe have been doing this for a long time and are really tied to the land and you know are conservationists themselves. And then you have people who have come from Eastern Europe and you know read about place in hindsight.
Nick Hanna: It's interesting you say that because if you go to New Zealand every single house in New Zealand is metal and they store their water right for greywater whatever you need. I just I can't believe that we haven't done it and I know we have. There are tanks that are actually being put in places that I won't name but it's taxpayer dollars paid for it you know big tanks to store that water so that they won't suck it out of the streams in the summer like you were like you were mentioning and it sounds like that's going to be a lot more people are going to are adapting that.
Chad Alderson: You know from a marketing perspective and you mentioned this in the in the article if I'm a grower I probably want to work into my marketing message that I'm actually using water that's you know above the board and regulated all this because I think it's you know it's more eco friendly. I think that needs to be part of the marketing mix if you're a smart grower trying to get into this industry.
Bryan McFadin: Yeah I I hope that that's the case yeah that environmental protection becomes a selling point for cannabis growers.
Chad Alderson: So you know I picture like all these little cultivations spread across that watershed kind of like you know mosquitoes sucking on a vein - spread out. Can you kind of get into that a little bit and what your findings were?
Bryan McFadin: Sure. And that's that's a good analogy. So the measurements that we took and our analysis of water use indicated to us that there's some sort of distinctions between the different categories of water use. Cannabis growing is pretty widespread. But each individual operation doesn't take a lot. And so that impact is one that's spread all around the watershed. You know the impacts occur all over the place but never a lot in any one location. The one exception to that in our study was the Trinity Pines area where there's really high concentration of growing activities in one particular watershed. Generally it's pretty spread out. Then you have your irrigated agriculture. In this case and these watersheds it was pasture for livestock that water category and the municipal uses. They take a lot of water but it's only in one or two streams. And then the domestic is kind of like cannabis because people live all over the place you know domestic uses a huge use but it adds up. And so for a small stream a cannabis operation or someone's domestic use can have a real impact. But in a larger stream it tends to be it looks from our results it looks pretty small yeah we estimated how much flow additional flow we would expect to see in each of the creeks that we monitored and the amount that you get from adding back in the cannabis use. It was surprisingly small the issue one of the issues though is that the use is pretty constant. So in the springtime it's really small us in comparison the total. But then you get into August where naturally those creeks are starting to come to a trickle. And and one person filling up their tank can can dewatered the stream. In fact we saw signatures of that. So in addition to taking the spot measurements at the 33 locations we also had pressure transducers installed to be able to monitor the flow. Throughout the summer and a measured flow every every half hour.
Chad Alderson: Did it did measure it on a site by site basis or a specific time? And what I mean side by side I mean the cultivation area.
Bryan McFadin: So the first year we had four of these devices in last year we had eight. And we weren't specifically targeting any particular grow operation it was more we needed to understand what's going on throughout this summer in these locations because they had significance for one reason or another. This last year we did add some in below some known cannabis operations to see if we could see the signal people throwing on pumps and that sort of thing. Two of the creeks that we monitored. You could see clear signs of flow manipulation and people turning on pumps and both of those streams dried up. Those two and Post Creek which is downstream from Trinity Pines were the only three that we monitored the dried up.
Nick Hanna: It's funny you were talking about flows and stuff. I haven't really seen a lot of this firsthand. The only thing I have seen locally is the quality of the river change. So more algae it seems like is out there. They might not be taking a lot of water out but whatever they're putting back in could be pretty toxic.
Bryan McFadin: So yeah algal production is driven mostly by nitrogen and phosphorus additions which are the principal components of fertilizer right? And so where fertilizers are reaching streams either as discarded material or leached out of irrigated water. You know when you water soils some of that stuff leaches out goes through the ground and it ends up in a stream. Where those streams are enriched. We've seen increases in algal productivity and what that can do is not only does it make it not look nice in a place you don't want to swim...
Nick Hanna: Chokes out the oxygen for the fish right?
Bryan McFadin: Exactly. It creates these really wide oxygen swings where in the daytime the algae is photosynthesizing and that's putting oxygen in the water and at night time it's respiring it's decaying and that takes oxygen back out. And so you get these really large swings from high to low in a enriched system. In some systems that can also cause the pH to swing.
Nick Hanna: Were you monitoring this?
Bryan McFadin: We weren't monitoring nutrients in this study.
Chad Alderson: When you said "enriched" twice. Can you kind of give me a definition in that context with what you're talking about.
Bryan McFadin: The reason why I say enriched is because you know nitrogen phosphorus potassium those are naturally occurring chemicals that all plants use and grow. They're out there already. And the issue is that some more is added and it becomes too much.
Chad Alderson: So it's an additive thing to whatever the natural chemical thing is... it balances in that particular watersheds and anything else is additive.
Bryan McFadin: Similar to sediment right? There's sediment in rivers and streams we have erosion in these hills. That's a natural process but then if you build a bad road cause a landslide stream crossing fails then you get this huge amount of sediment it comes and fills in the pools makes the riffles and worthy for spawning habitat. Something that's naturally occurring becomes something that is destroying things.
Chad Alderson: Usually the term in the marketing the word, "enriched" is a positive thing. But in this case it's not.
Nick Hanna: So is that going into the planning as far as the flows go? You would think that you know you're looking at the flow in up and down but also needing to flush all that crap out of the river. I mean is that part of that allocation at all? Do you think it should be?
Bryan McFadin: Yeah it can be yeah. So this is something that we start to talk about a little bit ago and then it got off when I started talking about riparian and appropriative rights. You were asking you know how much can you take? What are the rules surrounding that? The way things work in California is that there aren't any limits until the government establishes them. You know the default is no limit and then when a problem arises and a problem comes up yeah then some some attention and focus gets applied to the problem and and in theory you come up with a minimum instream flow requirement or something like.
Nick Hanna: That happened on Mill Creek recently with you know farmers taking out water and having different diversions and they're actually coming in to fix those. Right. Do you work on that project as well?
Bryan McFadin: So I don't work on Mill Creek because that's not in my region but that effort is part of a larger effort which is the governor's California Water Action Plan the California Water Action Plan has many elements to it addressing water needs of the state. And one of those elements has to do with instream flows for the ecology. And so the water action plan directed the State Water Resources Control Board and the Department of Fish and Wildlife to enhance flows in five different watersheds to start with. Mill Creek is one of those watersheds the Ventura River is another and then the other three are in our region and that's MarkWest Creek which is a tributary of the Russian River, South Fork Eel River and the Shasta River. And so the State Water Resources Control Board and Department of Fish and Wildlife - and I've been helping the state board with some of the work to - they're engaged in efforts to understand how much water is available and how much needs to be kept in stream to protect the beneficial uses of water. And that's regulator speak for "fish and critters" and the things we appreciate about streams so that they can establish some of those rules. That process of doing the science that it takes to establish how much flow is needed takes a lot of time and money.
Nick Hanna: Just trying to wrap your head around all this stuff and kind of make you go a little crazy as far as who does what and how it's monitored and implemented. I mean it's it's a lot.
Chad Alderson: Weren't you the one that told me your teacher said If you want to make some money get into the water game?
Nick Hanna: You learn as much as you can about water and become an attorney.
Chad Alderson: Oh my god.
Bryan McFadin: I was going to say I don't know about the money but I'm sure about the job security.
Chad Alderson: The bunny hole is so deep in this industry.
Nick Hanna: They'll be busy for the rest of their lives - which I'm sure you work with a lot of attorneys?
Bryan McFadin: Yeah. Yep.
Nick Hanna: Too many damn lawyers. TMDL?
Bryan McFadin: Yeah that's right. So I started my career at the larboard working on what are known as TMDLs which stands for Total Maximum Daily Load but we were joking around earlier that couldn't mean Too Many Damn Lawyers, or Taking My Damn Land. (laughter) Depends on who you ask.
Nick Hanna: This is all very cool stuff. What about the Eel River? There's that Potter Valley Project and FERC relicensing that's going on with the PG&E.
Bryan McFadin: Sure yeah. I represent our office and in that process and what that process is about is the Potter Valley project which is a PG&E hydroelectric project which stores water in Lake Pillsbury runs it down about 12 miles of the river to a diversion tunnel which diverts it over into the Russian River. And in that diversion there's a big enough elevation difference that they can generate power. That project has a license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission which is going to expire scene. And so there is a five year process ahead of any one of these re-licensing efforts that spells out the different things that are going to happen so that decision makers can make good decisions about this. And right now where that process stands is PG&E has been meeting with agencies and the public talking about what kind of studies they think they need to answer all the questions that are going to come up in the relicensing process. And then of course agencies and public are suggesting that they may need more studies. You know that's kind of the game is played.
Nick Hanna: Do you fit into that or is it the Water Quality Control Board?
Bryan McFadin: Yeah because at a regional level we maintain the water quality control plans and those water quality control plans are where are the standards of water quality standards are capped. So we're sort of the experts on the standards. Those are the standards that PG&E or any other operator would need to show that they're meeting to show that the project isn't impacting water quality.
Nick Hanna: I know there's a lot of talk about getting there's 200 plus miles of spawning habitat for fish above above Potter and just again there is a movie. Are you familiar with that movie, River of Abundance? And it's about the Eel River and the history that's taken place and then all the pot farms that have sprouted up in their area and tributaries that basically salmon or steelhead aren't using anymore because of obstructions or water being sucked dry.
Chad Alderson: Like a Trout Unlimited movie or TU movie?
Nick Hanna: Yeah I think a kid in college helped put it together. Mike Weir was one of the ones that helped put it together.
Chad Alderson: Probably TU.
Bryan McFadin: I think that's when you talked about - there's another one that just came out too.
Nick Hanna: Anyway, they talk about the millions of fish that used to run around in here. And how much that's impacted it. What do you see as far as present and in the future in the next 10 years of what's going to happen with all of these watersheds?
Bryan McFadin: Wow.
Chad Alderson: Do you think the FERC relicensing will be done by then? Just kidding.
Bryan McFadin: It might be. Now the question is will the lawsuits be settled? Those processes can take forever. But you know looking in my crystal ball for the Eel River, I think that because of the concentration of cannabis growing activities that occurs and Southern Humboldt and Mendocino that that area is due for a pretty significant ecological lift associated with the implementation of this cannabis program which requires that people stop diverting in the summertime to water their plants.
Chad Alderson: I personally think that what will happen once once this becomes an enterprise it gets everything gets legal and everyone starts to comply - you're going to see a kind of a period of consolidation. You know that the smaller guys are going to be pushed out because they can't scale up and the ones that can scale up will be able to meet the regulations and those that don't will be either forced to sell on the black market - if the market price on the black market is cheaper than you know the commercial price. That's the only way it's going to happen I just see a lot of the smaller farms getting pushed out.
Nick Hanna: I think you are right. They're going to require a lot a lot of testing and right quality control.
Chad Alderson: I mean the big if is that the price that's set on the free markets got to be even or if not better than the black market price - that's the only way that consolidation thing will happen.
Bryan McFadin: Yeah well you know black market on the north coast has always been shipping out of state. As long as there's federal law prohibiting it there's going to be black market.
Chad Alderson: Yeah, there's all those states that are there that are still illegal.
Bryan McFadin: Yeah. Right now the price for pot is really low and you know a lot of people are wondering what they're going to do. You know it's dropped quite a bit in a short amount of time - just a few years. One of my fears is a water quality professional is that a lot of these people who've moved in during the Green Rush - say the last 10 years and have used all sorts of substances in the course of their cannabis growing operations and alteration as well as a lot of heavy equipment to push out pads and building...
Chad Alderson: They are almost like Terra forming the sides like they do in Japan and China when they when they grow rice - is that right make terraces essentially.
Bryan McFadin: Yeah. Well you know Southern Humboldt and Northern Mendocino County and Southern Trinity County. It's steep country. And so if you want a flat spot a lot of places you have to step it - it with a blade.
Nick Hanna: Damming up lakes you know damming up creeks making a whole lake doing the terrace thing like you're talking about.
Bryan McFadin: Yeah. And in a really egregious cases we've seen them mixing up their fertilizer right in the stream in one of these little dammed up pools and then diverting out of that. That... it's going to cause havoc. But getting back to this fear I have - you know where people have been on the margin economically and the price has dropped. I'm worried that there's going to be a whole lot of properties that have a lot of you know erosion and soil issues and potentially contaminant issues that people just walk away from.
Chad Alderson: Yeah if this plays out like I think it's going to the only ones that are going to be able to compete are going to be the ones that leverage in an economy of scale. I mean they consolidate or they just grow their business up to a point where they can eke out a margin just pumping out a lot of volume.
Nick Hanna: That's already happening.
Chad Alderson: Yeah. That sad. There's going to be a lot of abandoned displaced you know small kind of indy farms. All the fallout from that is just kind of something we'll have to deal with.
Bryan McFadin: You know one of the reasons why it's been so popular to go out way out in the middle of nowhere and grow your pot at the end of some you know dirt road that's 20 miles long in the headwaters of some watershed is that it's been a valuable commodity and people are worried about thieves. Before that they were also worried about gas to the men in helicopters you know. But I think with the price dropping and sort of the legalization and you know normalization of the industry there's not going to be that that incentive for people to be way out in the middle of nowhere growing pot which hopefully will be a good thing for fish.
Chad Alderson: It might bring people down into the valley. Just from a pure distribution standpoint it's a lot cheaper to move product if it's closer to 99 or I5.
Bryan McFadin: Right. And if you're in a valley that has a deep aquifer and you can sink a well and you're not taking water from a stream or have to deal with that. That's another incentive.
Chad Alderson: So all maybe Durham, Ca. will turn into the biggest pot capital of the planet and they'll come up with another name for weed. You know how they say, "aaaminds?" they're going to say, "merry-wanna" or something weird. I don't know - you boys from Durham that are listening - you'll figure that one out I'm sure.
Nick Hanna: Very interesting. Very interesting.
Bryan McFadin: Yeah I do think though that a lot is going to change in the next few years. One way or another just with all the changes in the laws and the price per pound.
Nick Hanna: I hope so. I hope that the streams are going to be healthier and we see it firsthand because I know I've seen it just in our local streams just like I was mentioning - the algae and just lack of water coming into the Sacramento River. You know I don't know if it's from pot growing but...
Chad Alderson: Maybe they should put a little tariff on the weed to cover all the pot farms that have been abandoned clean.
Bryan McFadin: That's part of it. Yeah. A part of that tax structure put in place goes back in.
Chad Alderson: There's this massive disruption in that market. You know it's going to be an issue. All these farms just abandoned all the crap that's left behind. On top of the soil and in the soil.
Bryan McFadin: Well, and it always has been. Growing up in Mendocino County and riding dirt bikes and mountain bikes around the hills I can tell you I've found you know probably a dozen places where there is a pile of black pipe that's cut into one foot lengths. You know that the guys you know the campaign against Marijuana Planting Sheriff people - you know they didn't bother to take that out of the woods. They just got it up and left.
Nick Hanna: It still blows my mind when I'm floating down a river and I look over and there's these huge plants just towering over a fence. You know like they're trying to hide it. But now nobody even cares anymore but it still blows my mind.
Bryan McFadin: Yeah the first time I saw that from Highway 101... I had to do a double take. This is different now.
Nick Hanna: So we never asked you have you been fishing over there at all?
Bryan McFadin: Not this year not this year. No. I got to get out in the South Fork Eel couple times last winter... didn't get anything.
Nick Hanna: No big chromers over there?
Bryan McFadin: No, but I left with a smile on my face each time though.
Nick Hanna: Any day day on the water is a good day.
Nick Hanna: You got any more aaaamind / almond?
Chad Alderson: No but I've got a sinus headache though. Need some CBD oil.
Nick Hanna: Cal Trout - we were going to talk about Cal Trout and Trout Unlimited - -- there's a water action? California Water Action.
Bryan McFadin: Well California Water Action Plan - that's an agency thing. But earlier we had talked about - before the show started - we had talked about some some grants that our office administers where we're funding. In one case where we're funding Cal Trout to develop flow criteria for Sproul Creek which is a tributary to the South Fork Eel and that information is going to be really useful for the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the state water board as they're developing their California Water Action Plan Plan which will likely include minimum stream flow criteria. That process is also interesting because Cal trout in working with some folks it Humboldt State University and some private - consultants they've come up with a really novel way to allocate water. It's different than the way California has done it for the last 100 plus years and it gets at how much can you take on a daily basis... more or less if you take small amounts you know how can you do that in a way that everyone can get some water and the fish are still OK? That's a real oversimplification.
Chad Alderson: The goal is to basically limit the peaks and valleys on the pull of that particular watershed is that right?
Bryan McFadin: That's one of the goals yeah. The other is to make something that's easy to implement and monitor and that has some predictability for the person who is actually diverting the water. You know if your house is on the stream that's where you get your water. It's better to know that on this calendar day I can take this amount of water, versus well I'm going to have to check a web website to see if the gauge down there - you know 20 miles downstream is at a certain level that is assumed to be protective of flows here... you know like there's there's some simplicity to the to what they've come up with. And we have a real interest in it. Of course our interest is more about having limits that protect fish. So we funded the flow criteria portion of that and then they're going to take that work and compare it to their study and have something where they can compare against. Okay? Our study says this and then the other work that we did which is sort of the benchmark to compare to so that they can make some determinant or some conclusions about how protective their approach is. It's a really complicated thing and it's hard to talk about on such a superficial level but suffice it to say we're supporting nonprofits efforts to come up with a more sensible way of allocating water.
Nick Hanna: How are the technology and dams associated with that. I mean is that going to be you see that changing not in the near future but down the road?
Bryan McFadin: Now you know our problems on the north coast are in the in the streams that don't have dead waters. I mean we have we have problems with dams streams too. But in terms of water allocation in streams that have reservoirs there's always an easy way out. You just turn up the flow. Now assuming there's flow whether it's where but where you're talking about streams that are fed by springs and by the slow seeping of groundwater into the stream as it goes through a watershed. There's no dial to turn to to make up for the fact that somebody took too much water or you know that sort of thing. And so in those situations the existing sort of construct of how to allocate water it starts to fall apart and particularly that the construct of how to estimate how much water is needed because those those methodologies have been based on streams where there's some dial to turn somewhere and you can add more water right. And in our small north go streams that's just not the case. People can still take the water though as we talked about riparian water rights are there for the taking.
Chad Alderson: And I mean that research that you guys are doing is going to apply to any state that's maybe on-boarding a marijuana policy in there because it just became legal - all the way to third world the emerging country that happens to have a ton of watersheds but not many say dams or infrastructure.
Bryan McFadin: Yeah true. It's pretty cool yeah. The work that Cal Trout and others are doing are really pushing that science forward.
Nick Hanna: It's also I think there's a lot of nonprofits like that doing a great job. It starts with keeping forests intact and those headwaters you know shade and cool the water and you know let the fish come up die provide nutrients to the trees. I mean it's crazy how much of a circle of life it is that you don't really think about you know.
Bryan McFadin: There are a tremendous number of really good organizations in Northern California that are working on these issues you know from little shoestring operation nonprofits all the way up to bigger organizations like Trout Unlimited and you know Nature Conservancy.
Nick Hanna: So do you have any crazy stories about being out in the field and having a gun pulled on you or being kicked?
Chad Alderson: Or what's the highest one of those growers has ever gotten you? Let's start there. (Laughter)
Bryan McFadin: No comment. (Laughter) You know I had a interesting interaction with an individual standing on a bridge in Scott Valley once back in 2003 where I was certain I was just about to get punched. I was standing on the bridge measuring trees with this laser rangefinder and this this guy in a flatbed pickup comes driving past really fast and hits the brakes hard turns around - thinking to myself uh oh - comes back a little bit slower like giving me the side eye and then and then parks and gets out and starts walking over to me - and you know the best I can describe is this guy looks like Yosemite Sam. I mean he was short had really broad shoulders big you know mutton chop kind a beard...
Chad Alderson: Powder keg for a belly?
Bryan McFadin: No he was in shape. He looked like he'd been throwing hay bales around - and he walked up to me with his with his fists and jaw clenched and said "What the hell are you doing here?"... I started talking fast.
Bryan McFadin: I should say that since that time I worked for another 15 years in Scott Valley and came to know many of those locals and there are a lot of really good people in Scott Right. There's a lot of water issues in Scott Valley too - including issues with groundwater and surface water. Yeah so there's a really interesting bit of work going on there too. So we our office had had developed one of these TMDLs that I spoke of earlier for sediment and temperature and temperature issues there have to do with a lot of different things. Shade is always an issue with with temperature but in Scott Valley there's also this really intense interaction of groundwater and surface water. And so we identified that groundwater was really important we couldn't really say how much the groundwater users were affecting the flows in the stream and that sort of thing because you know groundwater is a complicated topic. You don't you don't get very far with intuition. And so we were able to bring in UC Davis Dr. Thomas harder and his folks and they since that time they've worked with the community and developed a really top notch high tech computer model of how the groundwater works in the system and how it interacts with the surface water and then also worked with the groundwater Advisory Committee the county established a committee of water users. And they've gotten down the road far enough where they now have identified some solutions for the water issues there in Scott Valley which involve taking water in the wintertime when there's plenty of it and using some of those irrigation ditches and the infrastructure that you know started as gold mining infrastructure has been used for alfalfa and you know cattle - use those ditches and irrigation or diversion dams and the sort of things to spread water into areas where it can soak in so that come summertime there's still water in the aquifer that's moving its way to the river and providing flow for the river. And the work that they've done indicates that that approach can have really significant results.
Chad Alderson: That's really cool.
Bryan McFadin: Tens of CFS.
Chad Alderson: I mean that's the difference between being dry or being able to kind of like you know whether a couple really hot months in the middle of summer.
Nick Hanna: Yeah we just found out that it's one of the main tribs for the Coho in our state which I had no idea.
Bryan McFadin: There are a lot of coho and Scott River every third year. The other two cohorts aren't as strong as the as the one but yes Scott river is really important for Coho production in California as is Lagunitas Creek and the South Fork Eel. Those are three that kind of stand out. The Shasta River is also a really important place. The Shasta used to have a run of chinook salmon that at one point was counted it somewhere around 80000. While right over the hill in the Scott River the run was more like 20000. Part of the reason for that is there's a lot of really low gradient habitat like fish like in the Shasta valley. Probably the biggest reason for that is there's a lot of cold water springs in Shasta valley.
Nick Hanna: Is it the same size as the salmon river?
Bryan McFadin: By watershed area yeah. Scott Shasta and Salmon are all around 100 square miles or so.
Nick Hanna: And those are the three main trips to the Klamath?
Bryan McFadin: In the middle reach yeah. You know down lower. You got the Trinity and up higher you have the Sprague and Williamson... Lost River.
Nick Hanna: I floated the same one time and it scared the shit out of me.
Bryan McFadin: That's a serious river.
Nick Hanna: It was pretty wild and scenic middle of nowhere. Absolutely middle of nowhere. You don't want to get hurt out there. How you doing? He's usually a lot more interactive.
Chad Alderson: Are we going to end it on this?
Nick Hanna: I was going to ask you know if people wanted to get more involved and find out more information probably your web site is a really good place for news news releases and things coming up. But what might be some other ways to get involved or help?
Bryan McFadin: Well I'll plug a particular group that's out there called the Salmonid Restoration Federation. And there are a group that has a pretty good finger on the pulse of things statewide in regards to salmon and steelhead restoration. They have a big conference coming up in April over Fortuna. If you go to calsalmon.org there's some some information on that. Cal Trout's web site has a nice little page on what they're doing in the Eel River and Cal Trout has made the Eel River you know a focus area for their efforts. They've been organizing agencies tribes and NGOs. You know anybody who's interested really to try to get everyone moving in the same direction. They've also done a lot of restoration projects especially with the railroad. And you know they're working on these flow issues to but if you go to their Website there's a nice little Eel River page on their website.
Nick Hanna: That seems to be pretty consistent that all these organizations everybody seems have become together right now more than ever, right? To help out to fix up our rivers. Whether it's for humans and levees or the fish or whatever whatever it may be.
Bryan McFadin: Yeah water is a really import part of California. You know for all those reasons you just mentioned - the benefits and the you know the nice things that we get from rivers like being able to swim or fish. But then also you know having a nice economy and clean water to drink and water for industry and that sort of thing you know it's all really important for California.
Nick Hanna: Think it's a lot easier to find that balance. Now more than ever is it going to become more difficult as so many people get involved? It's a very broad open-ended question I know.
Bryan McFadin: I waver back and forth on questions like that. You know there are times when I feel like we're really turning corners and making progress and then other times I feel like you know right we're way behind the curve trying to play catch up. You know with the cannabis thing I think this state really has turned a corner. The next step is to make sure that people comply and implement the activities. But as far as the rules that are in place I think certainly protective of fish and water quality. You know I think there are other reasons that some people don't like let or you know have some issue with them. But in terms of the water quality benefit I think I think state's really turned a corner there.
Nick Hanna: Well I think that's going to change in this next year. Will you come back and tell us a little bit about it?
Bryan McFadin: Maybe we can do the next podcast on the water somewhere.
Nick Hanna: There you go.
Chad Alderson: That would be cool.
Nick Hanna: We do do that - we'll come up and fish the Eel with you.
Bryan McFadin: There you go.
Chad Alderson: And I'll make sure I'm not sick as a dog.
Nick Hanna: Thanks a lot Brian for coming in. Thanks Brian talking with us man appreciate it.
Bryan McFadin: My pleasure.
Nick Hanna: Helped us understand a lot what's going on out there so we really appreciate it.
Bryan McFadin: Yeah there's so much so much to know about water.
Nick Hanna: And we're working on a graph basically to help us understand it a little bit more because it is so confusing. You know there's a lot of different moving pieces departments that are all working together and when you're talking about FERC and NIPS and NOAA and Water Quality Control Board.
Chad Alderson: Yeah one of the folks from NOAA is working with us some we're putting together - you know think of it as like an org chart but for the departments so that people can just have a single map they can look at and kind of understand how all those pieces are related to the puzzle and I think might be actually good to put you know all the guests that we've had on up to the point we make this thing we actually fit in where they fit into it because if someone really wants to ramp into this industry they'll get a good idea of where / what part of the the superstructure they want to go work under.
Nick Hanna: Superstructure I like it.
Chad Alderson: Brian thanks again for coming in man appreciate it.
Bryan McFadin: You bet. It's been my pleasure.
Chad Alderson: So I got to do one plug before we go and then we'll let this poor listener off the hook. We're working on some software and if you want to sign up for the beta so you can be a tester and get an early preview of what we're up to go to https://podcast.barbless.co/beta... boy am I sick. That's it until next time. Right. Nick?
Nick Hanna: Later man, go get some sleep.