The executive director of the River Exchange sees the new year as a time for change. With the recent completion of facilitator services for a regional water management plan, Phil Detrich says the Dunsmuir-based river stewardship nonprofit has begun to look beyond Siskiyou County.
The executive director of the River Exchange sees the new year as a time for change. With the recent completion of facilitator services for a regional water management plan, Phil Detrich says the Dunsmuir-based river stewardship nonprofit has begun to look beyond Siskiyou County. “People from all over California and the northwest come here to enjoy our river,” Detrich said in his downtown office. “And we are gearing up to reach out to these people.” As an example, Detrich said he and local fishing guide Fred Gordon “gave a program to the Diablo Valley Fly Fishing Club in East Bay last summer. We recently received a nice donation from them.” Detrich, who became the River Exchange executive director in November, says the organization is moving into a new era, the boundaries for which are defined by funding sources. “For the last three years, the River Exchange's primary source of income has been the planning for a grant from the California Department of Water Resources,” he said. “We were under contract with the state, which funded us with a $590,000 grant.” He said this money paid for facilitator and submission services for an Integrated Regional Water Management Plan among a group of stakeholders in the Upper Sacramento-McCloud-Lower Pit River region. Members of the group include the cities of Mount Shasta and Dunsmuir, and McCloud Community Services District, according to a list of 15 stakeholders Detrich provided. Some others listed are the Modoc, Winnemem Wintu and Pit River tribes, Pacific Forest Trust, Mt. Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center, and Siskiyou Land Trust. “There were numerous other stakeholders involved in writing the IRWMP,” he said. “These are the ones who have signed the Memorandum of Understanding, thus becoming members of the Regional Water Management Group.” The group approved the plan and submitted it to the Department of Water Resources this past month. Detrich said this is the first step in a process for individual stakeholders to secure grants for water management projects. “The importance of the IRWMP is it enables these communities to qualify for Proposition 84 funds in the next funding cycle. This has the potential to bring millions of dollars in to upgrade our water management systems.” He said for the cities and McCloud Community Services District, this financial assistance could be used for replacing pipes in aging water delivery systems. The River Exchange's work the water management plan will continue into the new year, according to Detrich. “We'll be providing attachments, reports on the process – deliverables, grant requirements – until Feb 1, 2014,” he said. He said the Regional Water Management Group has requested the River Exchange to continue its role as coordinator. “There are a number of other proposed projects in the plan,” he said. “Science work on springs, ground water and surface water. The goal is to create a better understanding of the status of water quantity and quality in essentially all the watersheds that drain into Shasta Lake.” Contributions to community As it expands its services to farther reaches in the state, Detrich said the River Exchange will continue to foster education and community stewardship of the Upper Sacramento River. “The range of our services runs from the annual river cleanup, to outdoor classrooms, to watershed technical assessments, to spring restoration, like the headwaters spring in Mount Shasta City Park,” he said. Detrich said, “The demand still exists for our services. The question is, how do we continue to support ourselves?” He said the River Exchange has “several hundred loyal supporters,” who provide a significant portion of its funds through memberships and fundraising events. “But clearly we need to expand our present sources of funding,” he concluded. Detrich emphasized that over the course of its 17 years of operations, the River Exchange has played an important role in bringing money into the community. “Many thousands of dollars, in the form of salaries and grant dollars,” he said. “We'll be pursuing other grants.” He said the river stewardship nonprofit enjoys a good reputation locally, which he intends to extend around the state. “I've been invited to speak on panels at conferences at the state level,” he said. Detrich sees the first era of the River Exchange beginning in 1996, when it first opened its doors, funded by 1991 Cantara spill settlement money. That era lasted 10 years. Since then there have been various streams of support and earnings keeping the organization running, up to what calls the “successful completion of the original planning effort” for the IRWMP. When the tank car filled with metam sodium fell into the river at Cantara, Detrich was working in Sacramento for US Fish and Wildlife. He moved to Mount Shasta in 1996. “I was involved in the Northern spotted owl controversy, reviewing private and federal timber harvest plans,” he said. “From 2001 to 2010, I was supervisor of the USFW office in Yreka. I was in salmon management and watershed restoration.” He said he's always been a supporter of the River Exchange. “I joined the board in 2011, after retirement,” he said. “I became president of the board in July this year, and executive director in November,” he said, pointing out that he still holds both positions. “Our bylaws allow for our board members to also be employees,” he explained. Detrich said, “Water quality is obviously important to our local recreational economy. Our watersheds also contribute water for agriculture and domestic uses all over California. So we at the River Exchange see ourselves as part of a much larger community.” He said he is optimistic for new opportunities in 2014, stating, “We've got a great resume.”