Glenn County - Tehama County - Colusa County , California.
(c) 2001, Mike Barkley

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation makes war on stock ponds, and warns upstream riparians not to steal its water.

[This is a transcription from the 1953 California State "SENATE REPORT ON WATER PROBLEMS", p. 30-31. I've made every effort to present the content precisely, but not the form.]


Stony Creek rises in the Coast Range Mountains westerly and approximately opposite the Town of Maxwell; it flows northerly for about half its course and then easterly near Orland, discharging into the Sacramento River some few miles below Hamilton City. It is a creek quite prolific in sustained yield but also at times is subject to violent flashflood discharges. The stream has two large storage dams constructed for the early federal Orland Reclamation Project: East Park Reservoir, sometimes called Stony Ford Reservoir, and Stony Gorge Reservoir, also called Stony Creek Reservoir. To protect the water supply for the Orland Project, the United States brought suit to quiet title to the waters of Stony Creek Basin in the federal courts. The rights were adjudicated in 1930 in the case of the United States v. H. C. Angle, et al., and the waters of the Basin are now administered under a water master appointed by the federal court. The Orland Project acquired substantial and specific water rights by the court decree.

Stockmen pasturing in the withdrawn government lands in the area and on many of the privately owned lands which now carry no water rights, have been unable to obtain water for their stock. Much of the private land has lost its water rights to the Orland Project, and the Bureau of Reclamation so far refuses permits to construct the small dams for storing stock water on the upstream tributaries. When applications have been filed with the State Division of Water Resources to construct these minor dams and to appropriate water therefor they have been vigorously protested by the bureau. The result is that valuable range lands, usually open to grazing, are unusable.


Set out below is a notice issued by the Bureau of Reclamation in connection with stock-water dams:


The Bureau of Reclamation, Department of the Interior, wishes to notify prospective users of water within the watershed of Stony Creek that the rights to the use of the water of Stony Creek and its tributaries were adjudicated in 1930 in the case of United States v. H. C. Angle, et al., in the Northern Division of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. The adjudication decrees substantial rights to the water of Stony Creek watershed to the United States for the Orland Project. During certain periods of low runoff all of the water of Stony Creek and its tributaries is required to satisfy the decreed rights of the United States and other parties of the adjudication.

The Bureau of Reclamation does not wish to prevent the impoundment of water for stock-watering when water is available in excess of the needs of the Orland Project. However, conditions may occur during periods of critically low runoff which will require that action be taken to prevent interference with streamflow during such periods.
Dated this seventh day of August 1952.

(signed) R. S. Calland
Acting Regional Director
Bureau of Reclamation

It must be recognized that the Bureau of Reclamation is obligated to protect the water supply for the Orland Project and the rights granted by the court for its use; and that the federal water master, likewise is bound by the terms of the decree of adjudication. As far as our record goes there was no reservation made by the court for stock water. While a few small dams might use little water, a cumulation might create serious results in years of low runoff and could conceivably result in adversing a critical amount of water upon which the Orland Project relies. The equities involved are subservient to the adjudication made 22 years ago.

It should be pointed out at this time that the right to construct these stock-water dams is not confined to Stony Creek. It is a problem common throughout the entire foothill and mountain areas of the State, where prior downstream appropriators and holders of riparian rights are also apprehensive and are constantly struggling against the loss of water rights under simular circumstances. In fairness to all parties to this stock-water controversy, and its effect on our economy, general steps should be taken towards its solution and without delay. In this particular case it is believed that in the meantime revocable permission might surely be obtained from bureau officials allowing stock water storage during surplus periods when no serious results to the Orland Project would be incurred and no permanent adverse rights acquired.

Much in the way of horseback legal opinions has been presented pro and con the rights of the respective interests in the stock-water deal. Essential evidence has not been presented of record, not even the court decree. The Legislative Counsel therefore his been requested to investigate the legal phases involved in the matter and report thereon to this Committee whereon appropriate and necessary measures may be based and adopted.
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Return to Stony Creek Water Wars.

--Mike Barkley, 161 N. Sheridan Ave. #1, Manteca, CA 95336 (H) 209/823-4817