The State Water Resources Control Board is planning to readopt an emergency regulation for curtailments along the Scott River and Shasta River watersheds after first approving it in 2021 and took feedback this week on the proposal.

Representing a new ag water alliance in the Scott Valley, rancher Theodora Johnson said the board’s handling of water rights has posed an existential threat to her community. She described plans for a voluntary 30% reduction as unsustainable, since businesses cannot survive long at 70% production.

Lauren Sweezey, another rancher in the valley, argued the board has been placing one beneficiary above the next in prioritizing tribal needs.

“If the water board is recognizing the importance of heritage and cultures from nonfarming and ranching folks, it should also recognize the significance and value of heritage and cultures to farmers and ranchers in Scott Valley,” argued Sweezey.

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Craig Tucker, a policy advocate for the Karuk Tribe, was alarmed that hay production in the region “remains pretty

darn constant” because ranchers can “just pump the hell out of the groundwater.” Rancher Jim Morris shot back that “during the dry years is the time that we need to produce forage,” which supplies much of the West Coast with feed.

“The idea that we would limit production of something that's vitally important during the time that it's vitally important doesn't make a lot of sense to me,” said Morris. “If there's any time to produce something, it's when the people need it.”

Others criticized diversions from illegal pot grows, misinformation and the “false narrative” of fish versus farms.