Managing our headwaters: What are the challenges and recommendations?

Yosemite 5 sliderboxA panel at the ACWA conference discusses the importance of healthy forests to water supply reliability

California’s mountain watersheds are the source of most of the state’s developed water supply, but today’s headwaters landscapes are overgrown and underfunded. While most is federal land, there are state, local government and private lands that are also in need of active land management to address the increasing threats of catastrophic wildfires, diminishing water supply and water quality, and ecosystem degradation.

headwaters-cover-imageIn May of this year, the Association of California Water Agencies released a policy document on headwaters management titled Improving the Resiliency of California’s Headwaters – A Framework. The document details the role that headwaters play in California’s water management system, identifies current challenges, and makes nearly 30 specific recommendations in several areas, including planning, coordination and implementation, resources management, research, and financing.

At ACWA’s spring conference, Tim Quinn moderated a panel with Dr. Martha Conklin, Professor of Engineering, UC Merced, Steve LaMar, Director, Irvine Ranch Water District; Dave Eggerton, General Manager of Calaveras County Water District; and Barnie Gyant, Deputy Regional Forester for Natural Resources, USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region. The panel discussed the policy recommendations and emerging opportunities to improve the management of California’s headwaters.

Tim Quinn began by giving an overview of the headwaters document, noting that it is analogous to the framework document on groundwater that was done about 5 years ago. “That was a monumental document that moved in the direction of major change on how groundwater is managed in the state, and our main goal there was to make sure that ACWA agencies were in charge of that change and we accomplished that goal,” he said. “I think we’re headed in a similar direction with watersheds.”

Tim QuinnACWA tackled the issue through a task force of between 30 to 40 diverse members that included ag agencies, urban agencies, coastal agencies, and Sierra agencies, as well as those who were concerned with specific watersheds, he said.

Early on, a few things were apparent,” he said. “One was that this drought underscores the need for system-wide resiliency. In future droughts, you can make them better depending on what you do in the upper watersheds between now and then. Healthy headwaters are vital to water supply reliability as that is where your water comes from. 60% of California’s water is in the Sierra watershed, and the rest is at different places at higher elevations, that’s where your water comes from and yet our vision tends to stop at the rim dams. And improving conditions upstream will have benefits downstream, and you need to be aware of that and educated about that as we try and move forward.”

headwaters-ppt_lamar-finalcompressed_Page_04Mr. Quinn said that one of the things that struck him when he first read the report was the diversity and significance of the benefits of better watershed management. “The increased water supply reliability is but one benefit, and frankly I put that down toward bottom, because I don’t want it to look like we’re up there to cut down trees so we can make water supply available at sea level because that’s not what this is about. But in fact, there are significant water supply benefits, and it’s one of the few places where you can get water supply benefits and not have enemies that you have to go to battle with.”

Improving water quality is another benefit of better management of the upper watersheds as is reducing impacts from catastrophic wildfires,” he said. “Increasing renewable energy supplies that improve response to climate change – there is a lot of fuel up there that shouldn’t be up there and we can get rid of that fuel in ways that generate renewable energy and help Governor Brown with his climate change agenda.”

Some of the most obvious benefits are improving the habitats in the upper watershed,” Mr. Quinn continued. “In my Metropolitan days, I was part of efforts in several watersheds across California and it was amazing to see how quickly investments in watersheds and meadows up there could change our complexion and take them from a pretty ravaged look to a pretty healthy look within a relatively small number of years.”

headwaters-ppt_lamar-finalcompressed_Page_12This issue has political legs, he pointed out. “We can make progress on it, and reflecting that, ACWA is a founding member of the California Forest and Watershed Alliance, or CAFWA,” he said. “One of the ways you make progress in this world, in my humble opinion, is putting together odd bedfellows that show up with a common agenda in Washington DC or Sacramento. CAFWA is composed of ACWA, the Nature Conservancy, the Rural Counties of California, the California Forestry Association and the California Farm Bureau Federation. It’s a lot of really diverse interests that are coming together around a common agenda, and we’re going to pursue it vigorously in Washington DC as that’s where we think the opportunities are now, but we’re going to create opportunities in California as well.”

He noted that this has also become the National Water Resources Association’s number one priority as well. “So if we work together, if we build a lot of momentum behind this, there’s a lot of good that can be done.”

He then turned the presentation over to the first panelist.

MARTHA CONKLIN, Professor of Engineering, UC Merced

Dr. Martha Conklin discussed forests and water yield. “We have quite a number of research sites up in the headwater catchments along the Sierra Nevada, and one of the major emphasis of our research is understanding the interaction between water and trees,” she said.

The main message of her presentation is that they just don’t know how much snow they have in a year, she said. “We know how much is correlated to certain snow runs, but we just don’t know how much,” she said. “We’re in a time of climate change, and certainly if we’re starting to look forward to the future, we really need to think about how we can get a monitoring system up there, one that can give us real time data with satellites, point measurements, and so on, so we can operate our dams optimally. If we know how much is up there, we know the temperature is rising, we know how much has to be released, so we can start doing things in a very informed way. This is one of my take home messages.”

mc_acwa_2015_0_Page_03She then began with a discussion about basic mountain water balance, noting that the mountains we have here in California are composed of granite and they have some porosity underneath them. Precipitation in the mountains is generally in the form of snow, and at the bottom there is a point measurement, such as a snow pillow or a precipitation gauge, and satellite images are used to get a spatial average of how much is there, she explained, noting that the white to gray parts on the map is called the Snow Covered Area (SCA).

Once the snow is sitting there, the mountains are like water towers,” she said. “They store your water for about six months in that solid precipitation, and then it’s either evaporated or transpired, used by the trees and goes back to the atmosphere, or else it comes out as your surface water runoff.” She added that evapotranspiration is the water that’s evaporated from the soil and what’s transpired by the trees.

mc_acwa_2015_0_Page_04In an average snow year, we have about 14 million acre-feet, and that’s what’s stored in the mountains in snow for you for six months of the year,” she said. “Then we have the rim dams; they can take about 2 years of snow melt for average years.”

mc_acwa_2015_0_Page_06She then presented a slide with two pictures, both taken from the same spot on the northeast branch of the north fork of the Feather River about 100 years apart. “We’ve had a history of fire suppression in the forests, and the forests have gotten denser – quite a bit denser. If you go back and look at tree surveys, we have about 4 to 6 times more stems and about twice the biomass in a lot of the forests. It makes a difference for snow accumulation in terms of what gets to the ground and what gets to the branches.”

There are a lot of questions, Dr. Conklin said. “One of the big questions is that we have let this go on for a hundred years,” she said. “It’s been a collective societal decision. I won’t say it’s the forest service – it’s society. We decided that fire suppression was the way to go. It’s going to be hard to go back. … but we really do need to think about do we really want to get back to a more natural system, and if we did that, would that affect the water yield?

mc_acwa_2015_0_Page_07Tree density affects snow accumulation because trees shade the snow and keep it around longer, she explained. “And that makes a difference, because a lot of our snow storms in the Sierra Nevada fall between close to freezing,” she said. “If you ski, you hear about Sierra sludge … our snow is kind of wet, and so it really helps to keep that temperature cooler over the snowpack, so the trees do provide that.”

Trees have evolved over millions of years and are optimized for water gathering: they are dark so they have thermal mass and melt the snow near them. “That gives them water for their roots and it infiltrates a little bit into the soils. There’s an optimum distribution of trees that would be give you that shade, but you don’t want them too close.”

mc_acwa_2015_0_Page_08She then presented an example of a thinning experiment in the Stanislaus National Forest, pointing out that in the background is the unthinned forest, and in the foreground is a thinned forest to about half of the biomass. “Note we’re leaving the big trees there – that’s really important,” she said. “They are shading. Those are the valuable timber trees in some cases, but they’re also important for the forest health to leave those larger trees there.”

mc_acwa_2015_0_Page_09The experiment unfortunately started in 2013 with the drought already in place, so they were only able to obtain a few measurements. “We had two different treatments, whether they are evenly spaced trees or were there variable clumps in there, but if you look at the control on the left, compare it to the two treatments, there’s a lot of a lot of scatter in the data but you can notice that there is more snow accumulating, even in 2013 when we had that very small snowpack,” she said. “We were only talking about a little over a foot of snow in there, so those results are hopeful, but we are of course waiting for that year when we actually get a normal snowpack.”

mc_acwa_2015_0_Page_11UC Merced is conducting a seven year study with the Forest Service and the Department of Water Resources called SNAMP to study trees and water; there is a series of field sites in the Sierra and in the American River watershed. They also have two headwater catchments that they’ve been monitoring south of Yosemite and a snow measurement site along Tioga Road in Yosemite. “What we did was we put a transect of flux towers, which are towers that rise up above the tallest trees, and we’re measuring how much the trees respire and how much water they use,” Dr. Conklin explained.

mc_acwa_2015_0_Page_12“We’re starting to get data on the tree use, and we found some interesting results,” she said, presenting a graph of evapotranspiration plotted against elevation. “One of the first things we found that just absolutely blew our mind is that we always assumed that the trees in the Sierra Nevada turned off in the winter time – they don’t. Because the temperatures are warm enough, they actually transpire all winter long.”

At the lower elevations below about 3000 feet, forests turn off in the summertime, because of the moisture deficit,” she continued. “If you get into the mixed conifer zone, the sub-Alpine zone, from about 3000 to 7000 feet, that’s a sweet spot for trees. So that’s the area we’ve also had very much denser forests, and so they’re transpiring all the time, and then you go up to the higher elevations and the trees shutdown because it does get colder. If you look at the amount of water that these trees use, it’s about 3 feet per year, so about 3 acre-feet if you looked over an acre, so it’s a substantial water use. The runoff is generated higher, above 7000 feet, where the trees have shut down and there is less ET in the year than what there is at the lower elevation.”

mc_acwa_2015_0_Page_13Dr. Conklin then presented a slide showing monthly evapotranspiration for June through September for the last 5 years, noting that 2011 was a really wet year. “In a really wet year, the trees keep going, even in the dry period in the summer. Even in 2012 there was enough water stored in the system that even though it was a relatively low snow year, they kept going. But in August and September of 2013, those trees are beginning to shut down. They are getting stressed. So we have a very dense forest with trees getting stressed. Stressed trees are prone to disease and insect damage, so there’s a lot of concern now about the health of our forests, because not only do we have these dense forests; but if we end up with dense dead forests, we’re not doing very well either.”

mc_acwa_2015_0_Page_14Dr. Conklin then presented a set of graphs from a study of runoff in the Kings River basin. She noted that the top line of the top graph is precipitation; evapotranspiration as measured by the flux towers are the red point measurements. “Then we took satellite data, and tying it to a vegetation index, and we spatially averaged the evapotranspiration, which is the green line; the difference between what the precipitation and what’s used by evapotranspiration is the runoff,” she said. She pointed out that runoff is plotted against elevation, and the graph shows that almost all the runoff is generated above 3000 meters (or 9000 feet) for the entire Kings River basin.

As the runoff comes down in elevation, it intersects with the forest. “Notice we have a lot of water use because the trees are using it,” she said. “So we have this interaction between what’s generated, what’s being used by the forest, and what comes out. That’s our message here is that while you’re downstream water users, what’s really important is looking at what the water source is doing, and that’s really where the nexus is between waters and forests.” She added there is a PhD student working to tie biomass reduction to how much more runoff we can get, with the research question being how much.

Dr. Martha ConklinDr. Conklin then gave her conclusions. “We know at this point that vegetation removal generally results in more runoff initially, and that’s the really important point, because where there’s water, you get vegetation regrowth, so there will be regrowth,” she said. “If we go ahead and do things like clear cutting, it doesn’t work well because you’re not storing the snow; you’re not allowing that time for it to infiltrate. Wildfires are equally as catastrophic in terms of snow accumulation. We know that less dense forests can retain snow longer, and that colder snow dominated areas are the areas that produce the most runoff.

Looking forward, Dr. Conklin said we really need a sustained forest management program. “The foothill communities are where these headwater catchments are, but that’s not where the economic engines of the state are,” she said. “So it’s going to require interactions between downstream users and upstream users, but we could come up with a sustained forest management program, and I think the only way we can do this logically is really using science-based decision making.”

And I’d like to end with that. Thank you.

STEVE LaMAR, Director of Irvine Ranch Water District

Steve LaMar then spoke about the goals and objectives of the headwaters framework. “One of the things that is most important is moving towards the thinning efforts and really having more space among our trees and less of this overgrowth that tends to be smaller trees and shrubs on the ground,” he said. “Natural Resources Secretary John Laird spoke in a session yesterday about climate change, and he said, ‘we can’t really go backwards,’ and that’s true; but my hope that is as we go forward, we can have healthier forests that will have an impact on the amount of water running off and the water quality as well. We want to have those trees further apart, we want to have the snow accumulate on the ground, hopefully stay there for a long time and release water over a longer time period.”

Sierra fire USFSThe task force spent a lot of time on the catastrophic effects of recent wildfires. “It used to be if you went back and looked at the 1890s forest, they would have fire more often,” he said. “It would be caused by nature or by Native Americans, but a lot of it would be burning grassland or smaller shrubs on the ground and it would burn the understory but it wouldn’t really burn the entire tree or get into the crowns of the trees like we’re seeing in the King Fire, the Rim Fire, and some of the massive fires we’ve had in the last few years.”

With that healthier headwaters and forests, native plant and animal species are more likely to thrive,” Mr. LaMar said. “Meadows are really an important part of what we’re trying to do with our headwaters recommendations. Meadows are former lake beds that sort of act like sponges that can release water over a long time period, and then if we have healthier forests, hopefully we’re going to see an increase in runoff and it’s going to be cleaner and colder and will be beneficial to plant and animal species downstream.”

There is about 30 million acres of forest land in California; most is publicly owned; some of it privately owned. Mr. LaMar acknowledged that it is difficult for water managers to come up with recommendations when someone else has to implement them. “So you’ll hear us talk about the need for collaboration and working closely with the Forest Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, the private timber companies, and the private landowners, because for us to be successful, we really need other people to change the way that they are doing things. A lot of them really have good intentions, so some of what we need to do with our recommendations is try to provide them with the financial and other resources to do what they’d like to do.”

Steve LaMarMr. LaMar said this is one of the few public policy areas he’s ever worked on where if it’s done right, everyone wins. “This is something that can benefit the environment, it can benefit water managers, it’s one of those rare things that if we really do it right, there don’t have to be losers as part of this process,” he said.

Some of the recommendations in the framework document include longer-term post-fire monitoring to help better understand what happens after catastrophic wildfires, inclusion of notation of where headwaters are for Integrated Regional Water Management Plans, and restoration of meadows.

We also need to increase thinning of the forests, Mr. LaMar said. “But thinning doesn’t happen without controversy, unfortunately. We’ve seen efforts at thinning stopped because of environmental concerns that it was going to lead to clear cutting or the destruction of old growth forest, and so we need to partner with the environmental groups and proceed with both mechanical thinning and controlled burns in a way that’s beneficial to the environment as well as helping forest health and helping our water supply.”

It’s difficult to figure out how to pay for all of these things,” he said. “Under current policies, the Forest Service receives funding for both resource management and for fire activities, but the system we have set up is when we have these catastrophic wildfires, if they don’t have enough money to pay all of the costs, they take it out of the resource management pot; with the size of fires we’ve been having all over the country lately, that really has reduced the funds that are available to do the forest thinning and to do the healthy forest initiatives we’d like to see implemented.”

The task force is hopeful that there can be a growth in biomass energy production to create a market for the wood product that comes out of the thinning and that could be used and seen as a renewable energy source, he said. He noted that there’s been a decline in biomass facilities, so hopefully policies and funding can be used to increase the market for the product and make it easier to do forest thinning.

Mr. LaMar concluded by saying it is really time for ACWA to look at the entire watershed. “Where I am, a lot of the focus is on the discharge to the ocean, so I’d like to complement the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority; it turns out the 90% of the precipitation that recharges my groundwater basin in Orange County falls on the San Bernardino and Cleveland National Forests, and so I encourage you to read the framework. Please support our recommendations …

DAVE EGGERTON, General Manager of Calaveras County Water District

Dave Eggerton began by saying he’ll probably look back at the headwaters task force as one of the most important things he worked on in his career. “The thing that I felt that I was able to bring was the perspective of someone who lives in the communities most directly affected in the headwater areas,” he said. “Dr. Conklin mentioned that the sweet spot for evapotranspiration is within that 3000-9000 ft elevation zone; I live at about 4000 ft elevation so I’m right in that sweet spot. Unfortunately, that’s also the sweet spot for the catastrophic fires that we’ve been experiencing. One of the sad things that we saw as we went through this process was the two real devastating fires, the Rim Fire at a quarter of a million acres burned, and the King Fire, at 100,000 acres within the time frame that we were working on this effort.”

FirescapeMr. Eggerton said he lives in Pollock Pines, about 2 miles from where the King Fire started, and if the wind had been blowing in the opposite direction, the fire would have enveloped the entire community. “As the father of three kids, we were on standby that we would have to evacuate on a moment’s notice; we could see the massive cloud formation at the end of our block. It was a pretty scary situation, so I realized that this is more than just all the different water related aspects of this; it is also about the safety of our communities in those areas, so I think you will find that we really have the partners in the forest area that are ready, willing, and able to provide a lot of the effort and the labor force to try and get this work done.”

Mr. Eggerton said they also have access to all the resources of the U.C. system, including UC Merced, UC Berkeley, and even Lawrence Livermore Lab. “I thought this is just an amazing thing that we have partnered with them and trying to make them part of what we want to accomplish through this effort,” he said. He also acknowledged the Forest Service for being one of their partners. “They understand that this is a critically important thing for us to do, particularly in the face of climate change, and the fact that we really have to improve the conditions on the ground.”

It’s important for ACWA to be involved because the Forest Service really does need the support of an organization like this in Washington to try and change some of the things that are happening right now that really undermine their efforts, he said, noting that there is legislation moving forward to make sure fire response funds do not take away funds from other programs.

Dave EggertonMr. Eggerton said that from the standpoint the communities within the forests, it is an amazing accomplishment that there is now a framework document for forest management that has the weight and influence of an association like ACWA to recognize this as a priority and to advocate for better research and science, coordination and funding. “It’s pretty amazing to me that our small communities that were there banging on Tims’ door saying, ‘this is something we’ve got to deal with’ has now become an issue of importance to an association like this.”

There are relatively small things that we can do that can mean an enormous amount to the safety of our communities in these areas and could really benefit our water supplies,” he said. “I look forward as we move forward with this to see those implemented.”

BARNIE Gyant, Deputy Regional Forester for Natural Resources, USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region

Barnie Gyant began by saying that he is a fisheries biologist who has worked for the Forest Service for the last 24 years. Currently, he is the Deputy Regional Forester for Resources, which means he deals with tribal relations, budget, NEPA planning, ecosystem management, the timber program, grazing, reforestation, and rehabbing the land after the large fires occur on the landscape.

I’ve been in the region about six years, and being a fisheries biologist has helped me to step and look back, because regardless of what we do on the landscape, all things lead to the water,” he said. “All things lead to the water, and so the thing for our society is that we want plenty of water, we want it clean, and we want it when we want it. But currently with the state of the forests, we need some help.”

Forest MapThe U.S. Forest Service managed 20 million acres in California, about 20% of the state, said Mr. Gyant. “When you look at the Sierra Nevadas, the vast majority of that landscape is national forest. When you look at Northern California, when you look at the Shasta-Trinity, the Klamath, the Modoc, you look at that green, the vast majority of that land is national forest. About 60% of all the water that’s used in California comes from forested lands, and a vast majority of that is national forests.”

The challenge is how do we think in systems?” he said. “Think about the number of times you’ve been stuck in traffic. I was coming out of Oakland the other day, traffic was really, really slow … so we pull up and I finally get there, there’s a car in lane 2 that’s stalled. And you know what we did as a society? That person was in there, blinkers going on, they’re on the phone calling someone. You know what I didn’t see? No one thought about getting out their cars, pushing that one off so the rest of us could move. What we generally do is we bypass them when we finally get there. But because that car is stalled, it makes the rest of us late, or creates another hazard. So our inability to act in a situation like that creates situations where we’re late for meetings, we miss our flights, there’s rubbernecking going on, and so there’s this system of negativity that’s occurring. How do we change that? I think we’ve almost gotten to a place where we’re afraid to reach out and help each other.”

Forest waterHere’s what we need, the Forest Service, from the people in California,” he said. “We need your help. Several years ago, we identified in order to put our forests back into a resilient state, we’d probably need to treat about 500,000 acres a year. Because our suppression efforts that we did years ago have left our forests in an unbalanced state, when the fires occur, they are a big deal.”

Mr. Gyant then ran down the costs of recent wildfires: The Rim Fire at 257,000 acres, $127 million. The King Fire at 98,000 acres, $119 million. Westside Complex on the Klamath National Forests at about 170,000 acres, $118 million. We all pay taxes so we were all touched by that, he pointed out.

Fire suppression costs are anywhere from 40 to 50% of the Forest Service budget across all 193 million acres that the forest service manages, he said. “Here’s what that means. Nearly every program area gets an allocation every year from Congress to do a certain amount of stuff: so many trails, so many campsites, so much timber, so much grazing, so much money for fire suppression. It is occurring now and it has been for several years that the suppression costs have exceeded their initial allocation; in order for us not to go anti-deficient, we end up taking money from other resource areas to pay the price tag.”

Barnie GyantMr. Gyant said he’s been in the Forest Service Region 5 since 2009, and there have been years where they’ve had to borrow as much as $500 million from other program areas to pay for fire suppression. “So what that means to the rest of the other programs is if you’ve got facilities that need to be changed or updated or land exchanges or conservation easements, fuels projects, trails projects, decommissioning roads, whatever the list may be, those projects don’t occur in order to make sure that we don’t overspend.”

This is where we need your help,” he said. “We’re not going to be able to treat 500,000 acres a year just on our agency budget, so a part of what we’re doing is getting out and talking to our constituents about the need for us to behave a system. Right now we are focusing on the fire suppression and the fuels piece, but it’s a lot larger than that.”

Mountain RiverMr. Gyant pointed out that there could be many stakeholders in a forested watershed, such as landowners, the Forest Service, Sierra Pacific Industries, the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, CalFire, Cal Trans, the water districts, and so what if we looked at that watershed and said these are the activities that we think that need to occur in that landscape to change the condition of that watershed. “Fuels could be a part of it to protect communities and to help prevent the catastrophic wildfires; we might also do abandoned mine reclamation; we might get bold and get rid of some invasive species; we might have some roads that we need to decommission; there may be trails that need to be relocated, we could do habitat work, we could increase the flows in our streams, put large woody debris in, so at the end of that, we would have changed the condition of the watershed.”

Currently, most times we behave independently,” he said. “So at the end of the day or at the end of the year when we try and add it up, it doesn’t add up because the variables are different. We’ve got 10 miles over there, we’ve got a stretch of highway over here we did something on, we did some fuel treatment over there, and it’s not connected.”

When we had plenty of money, there was really no need for us to collaborate but that is going to be huge in how we go about doing our business today,” said Mr. Gyant. “Personally, I think it’s the right thing to do.”

What we haven’t done is talked about it in a way that it makes sense to the average person,” he said. “The reason we communicate is for a desired result. And the part of communicating with our public is that result of being engaged in what it means and what it takes with managing our upper watershed, because it affects them, it affects all of us, and we’ve got to be able to communicate that. And I think we can do it. I think right now in California, the time is in a place where we’ve got the right people in place that are willing to collaborate and work together. And now we have to capitalize on that energy so we can make a difference.”

So that’s what I spend a lot of my time thinking about in my job is how do we communicate in a way where it makes sense and it encourages us to act and behave differently,” said Mr. Gyant. “I think it’s possible, and I thank you for your time …

Questions and answers

One of the members of the audience identifying himself as coming from a small water district in Northern California said he’s heard this pitch before, but he has his own challenges in needing to make capital improvements to their own water distribution and treatment system to keep it operational, so it’s difficult to think in terms of subsidizing the forest service in its efforts. He pointed out that when he first came to Humboldt County, there was a program to selectively cut trees in the national forest, sell them, and use the money to maintain the forest as well as provide revenue for the local community, but that program was eliminated in 1993, and they haven’t cut a tree in the national forest since. This make it difficult for him to go to his ratepayers and ask them to raise their rates so he can help cut and thin the watershed. “Its critically important that we do it, so we need to work together, but we need to work together to get the federal government to own up to their responsibility in my opinion.”

Barnie Gyant acknowledged that the timber revenues were important to the small communities, but Congress is asking them as an agency to cut $2.8 billion. “It has a huge effect and it does make it hard for the average person to say hey wait a minute, we’ve lost our receipts, why should we come close to investing in the national forest? I think a place for us to start and it may not necessarily be in your budget, but what are we doing with the water bond money? PanelWhat kind of investments are we taking with the water bond money? What are we doing with cap and trade? Because the state of California is leading out in a lot of different areas.   We all have that list of things that we’re trying to do, and I think if we continue to manage that list independently, we won’t get very far. So that doesn’t necessarily answer your question directly, but I do think it challenges us to think about are there opportunities for us to work together, and if so, and it might start out small, and then we demonstrate that we have the ability to do it, and then it’s like the low hanging fruit, and then we communicate that and that’s what’s going to happen to change the mind of why it may be a good investment.”

Another audience member from a San Joaquin Valley irrigation district noted that his headwaters were hammered by the Rim Fire, and it’s been a disaster for Tuolumne County and the environment, as well as costing his agency hundreds of thousands of dollars to monitor water quality. He said he agreed with the previous commenter. “My day job is I’m in the lumber business, and I’ve been shocked and appalled at how in this country, through the environmental movement, through the endangered species act that sort of works on auto pilot, through lack of action, lack of cooperation, lack of working together, lack of coordination, that the cut on federal forests has gone way, way down, that means the forests have gone thicker, it means we haven’t had the timber revenues to help with thinning of the forest. I’ve been disappointed with ACWA and the group that did the headwater management report, that there’s been very little discussion of this issue of timber. Timber is a big part of this. Timber is a renewable building material. It’s a good thing. When you cut down a tree, particularly if it’s a redwood, it automatically regrows, but other trees are replanted, they regrow, the forests can be managed better. … I’d be willing to advocate that our agency give millions of dollars so you can do thinning and manage the headwaters of our river, the Tuolumne River better, but part of the comprehensive solution, part of working together has to be allowing a reasonable amount of timber to be cut and using the revenues from that to help with the program.”

Dr. Conklin added that the forests have gotten thicker; there’s twice as much biomass and four to six times as many stems. “A lot of that wood that needs to be taken out is the smaller species. We really need to keep that intact for the structure in there, so it’s going to require removal of some less profitable wood, and I think that’s something everyone has to face up to in terms of doing this. I agree that timber sales can be one way to pay for it, but they are not going to be the one that pays for everything.”

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