Trinity County may be cash poor, but it’s rich in natural resources. When decisions are being made at the state and federal level that affect those resources, this county should weigh in.

The Trinity County Board of Supervisors failure to comment on environmental documents on the Sites Reservoir project planned in Colusa and Glenn counties was disappointing.

The draft EIR/EIS done for Sites said it won’t have significant impact on the Trinity River. But hydrologist Greg Kamman found that by shifting the timing of diversions from the Trinity, the project could raise water temperatures in the river at critical times for fish.

Nine months ago, in March, four of the five supervisors were emailed this information by Tom Stokely, former Trinity County planner and now water and salmon policy analyst for Save California Salmon.

Stokely said he didn’t have Sup. Jeremy Brown’s email, and perhaps he should have sent the information to the clerk of the board for official correspondence.

The topic didn’t make it onto the board’s agenda until Dec. 17. The board had received a recommendation from the Trinity County Fish and Game Advisory Commission that they comment on the Sites Project documents that the documents be redone and recirculated with consideration given to potential impacts to the Trinity River.

With public comment closing Jan. 7, the advisory commission’s letter and attached information reached the board in time to be added as a subsequent urgency item.

There was debate as to whether the board should weigh in when it had not had time to get up to speed on the issue.

Sup. Jeremy Brown noted the comment letter to the Sites Project Authority and the Bureau of Reclamation “is time-sensitive, and we don’t want to get excluded from the opportunity to comment. It keeps the door open.”

Sup. Keith Groves responded, “But say we get what we ask for and they withdraw the EIR. Then what? We have no infrastructure to be involved in that process. Who’s going to be the water person to make comments? If we’re going to get in it, then let’s make a commitment to get in it.”

Ultimately, the board tabled the item indefinitely.

The Trinity County Fish and Game Advisory Commission historically has not weighed in on water issues. In fact, at their Nov. 13 meeting some of the commissioners seemed uncomfortable going down that path. In cases where fish or game could be affected, we urge the commission to jump in. But the supervisors shouldn’t need to be asked to get involved with Trinity River issues.

This isn’t the first time the county government has been mute on a decision that affects the Trinity River. The supervisors also did not speak up when the Interior Department eliminated the Trinity Adaptive Management Working Group. Interior provided a flimsy reason and failed to respond to follow up questions from the media. The stakeholder group was called for in the 2000 Trinity River Record of Decision to advise the Trinity Management Council. This shut off a significant avenue of public input to the Trinity River Restoration Program.

We are glad to see the county filed a protest to the Westlands Water District filing in Fresno County Superior Court regarding its permanent contract for Central Valley Project water (which includes Trinity River diversions). This was a scramble as the county found out about the court case just days before the filing period closed. Westlands didn’t exactly spread the information far and wide. Another reason to be vigilant.

The Trinity County Board of Supervisors has a lot on its plate. But water issues can’t be shoved to the side.

Whether it’s one supervisor taking the lead or assigning county staff to stay on top of water issues, we ask that the supervisors get positioned to represent Trinity on these important issues.

With Trinity County’s small population it’s tough to be heard ... but let’s not make it so easy to tune us out.

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