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Plan Overview


After decades of water management discussion, in 2000 a diverse group of Pit River watershed stakeholders – primarily agricultural operators, conservation interests, water purveyors and municipalities, and public land managers – came together to form the Pit River Watershed Alliance (PRWA).  The mission of the PRWA was: “To foster partnerships that achieve long-term cultural, economic, and environmental health of the watershed through active community participation.”

Since its formation, PRWA has successfully completed several watershed plans and assessments in cooperation with other local entities.  The aim of these assessments was to respond to increasingly complex water management issues and regulation, and to assure that water management interests were coordinating to provide reliable water supplies and water quality to serve diverse interests.The North Cal-Neva Resource Conservation and Development Council, Inc. (RC&D) has often served as the grant applicant and fiscal agent for the PRWA, and provided staff support and leadership.

Facing both the 303(d) impairment listing of the Pit River and several of its tributaries, and initiation of the California Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP), the Northeastern California Water Association (NECWA) decided it needed to bring to the watershed additional resources to address critical water issues.  So in 2010, NECWA partnered with the PRWA and the RC&D to undertake development of an Upper Pit River Integrated Regional Water Management Plan (IRWMP) under state IRWM guidelines, with NECWA serving as the grant applicant, the RC&D serving as the fiscal agent, and the PRWA serving as the Regional Watershed Management Group (RWMG).

In early 2011, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) awarded a grant to NECWA to fund local creation of an Upper Pit River watershed IRWMP.  The IRWMP currently includes the Upper Pit River, Burney Creek, Hat Creek, and Fall River sub-watersheds, and is exploring inclusion of the Goose Lake sub-watershed.  The IRWMP builds on all of the previous PRWA and sub-watershed efforts, and will provide the IRWM region with state compliant objectives and strategies, and an integrated, adaptive, updatable forum for watershed enhancement projects over the next 20 years.

Brief Description of the Planning Area

The Upper Pit River is the primary drainage in northeastern California.  The river system drains portions of four counties – Modoc, Siskiyou, Lassen, and Shasta – and is fed by a watershed of nearly three million acres.  Several groundwater basins provide not only domestic and agricultural supply, but recharge the watershed’s spring-fed streams and geothermal resources.  Hot, dry summers and cold winters prevail over a region typified by level mountain valleys surrounded by mountainous terrain.  Four sub-watersheds – the Upper Pit River, Fall River, Hat Creek, and Burney Creek – are the major components of the surface water system.

Over 60 percent of the watershed is publically owned, primarily at the higher elevations, while lower elevations are predominantly in private agricultural and residential ownership.  The Pit River Tribe manages several properties in the region as well.  Population densities are generally less than ten persons per square mile, thus rural lifestyles and pursuits prevail.  The largest city in the watershed is Burney with a current population of 3,154.  The rural nature of the watershed has led to a strong culture of self-reliance and wariness of government.

The economy is largely supported by agriculture, timber production, and tourism.  Much of the Plan area has been identified under DWR income criteria as disadvantaged, which presents additional challenges for funding and implementing projects and programs.

The area’s beauty and open lands attract hunters, recreationists, tourists, and urban refugees.  Residents and visitors share the watershed with a diverse range of wildlife species whose habitat includes conifer forests, sagebrush, juniper, and chaparral, as well as grasslands, wet meadows, riparian vegetation, and aspen stands.

Development of the Upper Pit IRWMP

The intent of this IRWMP is to promote voluntary integrated regional water management to ensure better water quality, sustainable water uses, including reliable water supplies, and enhanced environmental stewardship.  By developing and adopting an IRWMP, the watershed is able to identify its greatest water management needs, coordinate that management, and develop projects to address identified issues.  Further, the watershed is then eligible to apply for state project funding under the IRWM program.

A brief history of the IRWM program follows:

2002 – Senate Bill 1672 creates the Integrated Regional Water Management Act to encourage local agencies to work cooperatively to manage local and imported water supplies to improve the quality, quantity, and reliability.

November 2002 – California voters pass Proposition 50, the Water Security, Clean Drinking Water, Coastal and Beach Protection Act of 2002, which provides $500,000,000 (CWC §79560-79565) to fund competitive grants for projects consistent with an adopted IRWM Plan.

November 2006 – California voters pass Proposition 84, the Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality and Supply, Flood Control, River and Coastal Protection Bond Act, which provides $1,000,000,000 (PRC §75001-75130) for IRWM Planning and Implementation.

November 2006 – California voters pass Proposition 1E, the Disaster Preparedness and Flood Prevention Bond Act, which provides $300,000,000 (PRC §5096.800-5096.967) for IRWM Stormwater Flood Management.

Development of the Upper Pit IRWM Plan was made possible by an IRWM Planning grant administered by NECWA.  In February 2011, NECWA hired Burdick & Company to prepare the Plan.  Initial data gathering was followed by regional and sub-regional public involvement meetings in September and October 2011.  Subsequently, draft sections of the Plan were developed under the guidance of stakeholder subcommittees for climate change, project development, and Plan review.  Tribal interests were incorporated with extensive outreach and engagement.  Numerous water management entities and interests were integrated via individual and coordinated interviews and technical assistance.  The Scripps Institute at the University of San Diego provided substantial pro bono technical input for the climate sections of the Plan.  In January 2013, a public review draft was released and public comments incorporated or acknowledged in the document.

At the latter stages of the planning process, the Goose Lake area requested and was approved by the RWMG to join the Upper Pit watershed IRWM planning area. Approval for this boundary adjustment is pending California Department of Water Resources approval.  Over the next few years, information for the Goose Lake addition will occur and be added into revisions of this Plan if public support and adequate resources exist for that effort.

Regional Water Management Group: Oversight of the Planning Process

Short-term Process

Pit River Watershed Alliance formally accepted the role as the interim group to oversee drafting of the IRWMP.  Recognizing the need to separate its long-term role as a watershed-wide group with diverse interests and projects, PRWA formed a specific subcommittee known as the Regional Water Management Group to direct and oversee preparation and adoption of the IRWMP.  After adoption of the Plan by the RWMG, decision-making will transition to the identified long-term governance entity (see Long-term Process, below).

Roles and Responsibilities of RWMG:


  • oversees the consultants’ work effort (content, not budget);
  • directs consultants work efforts;
  • reviews and refines IRWMP sections;
  • participates in and approves participants of working groups and/or subcommittee as required;
  • takes information back to its stakeholder groups about progress of the work effort;
  • ensures public review of the Plan;
  • reports back to PRWA, but PRWA cannot change any decisions;
  • determines structure of long-term RWMG; and
  • adopts the finished Plan.

    The RWMG has been meeting at least monthly since fall 2011 to oversee Plan preparation.

    Long-term Structure for Plan Implementation

    During Plan development, the RWMG has undertaken a recruitment process to attract additional stakeholder representatives who have an interest in the region’s water management planning.  This recruitment process had not yielded substantial additional representation, so a more concerted recruitment process is planned for 2013.

    Once additional recruitment is completed, it is anticipated that the long-term RWMG would be made up of the RWMG plus additional recruited members.

    Into the future, at a minimum, the RWMG will be responsible for:


  • tracking the proposal submittal for the implementation grant by staying in touch with DWR;
  • making sure all the project sponsors have adopted the Plan;
  • coordinating and adopting annual (or other set interval) updates to the Plan;
  • annual review of performance measures;
  • assuring Plan implementation (e.g., updating Plan, ongoing project development, pursuit of funding for project implementation);
  • securing funding for staffing, or a strategy for implementation grant preparation; and
  • securing staff or a strategy for internal communications and public involvement.

    Public Involvement

    Several regional and sub-regional meetings took place throughout the watershed, from fall 2011 through winter 2012.  Extensive stakeholder, agency, Tribal, and non-governmental organizational involvement has also informed Plan development.  A partial list of the many entities involved is presented below:



    Table 1-1.

    Regional Entities Involved in Plan Development

    Big Valley Water Users Group

    Bureau of Indian Affairs (represented by the Pit River Tribe)

    Bureau of Land Management

    Burney Water District

    California Department of Fish and Game

    Central Modoc Resource Conservation District

    Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board

    City of Alturas

    Fall River Conservancy

    Fall River Resource Conservation District

    Fall River Valley Community Service District

    Lassen County Board of Supervisors

    Lassen County Fire Safe Council, Inc.

    Lassen County Water Works District #1

    Modoc County Board of Supervisors

    Modoc County Planning Department

    Modoc County Public Works

    Modoc National Forest

    Natural Resources Conservation Service

    North Cal-Neva RC&D Council, Inc.

    Northeastern California Water Association

    Pit River Resource Conservation District

    River Center

    Shasta County Water Agency

    Sierra Pacific Industries

    South Fork Irrigation District

    Trout Unlimited

    U.C. Cooperative Extension Agency

    U.S. Forest Service


    Several individuals volunteered their time as well.


    Plan Adoption and Implementation

    It is anticipated that this Plan will be adopted by the RWMG in 2013, after a 30-day public review period of the draft Plan.  The Plan will be used primarily by the RWMG to guide implementation of projects that carry out the Plan’s goals and objectives.  Secondly, the Plan will be used by project sponsors who wish to use it as a springboard for project development and funding, and by water management agencies to foster cooperation.  The Plan will be periodically updated; public participation is encouraged and will be an essential part of the implementation of projects and refinement of the IRWM Plan.

    A Walk-through of the Plan

    The first chapters of the Plan orient the reader to the processes employed to obtain diverse stakeholder involvement for IRWMP development, both within the Upper Pit watershed and in neighboring IRWM regions.  A region description follows, describing the natural resources and cultural, social, and economic setting of the watershed.  Maps are included for reference.

    Regional water issues and conflicts, and water and land use planning are then examined to determine what water-related problems need to be addressed by the Plan.  These sections inform resource management strategies and goals and objectives relevant to address the identified issues.  A chapter on climate change is required by the state to provide a weather record and projections that may help inform water management objectives and strategies for the future.

    Solutions to regional needs are displayed under project implementation in the form of direct actions proposed by project sponsors to implement the many proposed goals and objectives.

    Impacts and benefits of the Plan, both on a regional and interregional basis, are subsequently displayed.  A blueprint for measuring Plan performance and monitoring project outcomes follows.

    Technical analysis and data management chapters describe the expertise and data used to prepare the Plan, while IRWMP management, governance, and implementation explains the organizational structure and protocols used both to develop the Plan and guide its long-term performance. The IRWMP implementation guide provides a blueprint for getting projects on the ground, as well as for coordinated Plan administration and water management into the future.

    To obtain a copy of this document, go to:


  • Visit your local public library where both discs and hard copies will be available for review; and/or
  • Request an electronic version from: