Neil Meyer, President
Patrick Smart, Vice President
Ann E. Morrissey
Office of Secretary/Treasurer: David Lusk
With the flume (water aqueduct) destroyed, Canyon Creek will be dry from May through November. The adjoining lands will turn brown, the trees will die, and all birds, animals , fish, insects and other life forms that depend upon the water will likely die as well. Residents will not be able to grow their gardens or irrigate their pastures for their animals. Their landscapes will wither and turn brown, making them even more vulnerable to devastating fire in the future. Tragically, some of the Berry Creek Water Users' members lost their homes in this fire. One former member lost his life. But some were able to survive the fire solely because they had stewarded the water to make green zones around their homes and buildings -- these green zones, and the presence of well-watered trees along the creek, helped slow or stop the fire's advance in several places. We have an urgent need to do three things:
Berry Creek Water Users, Inc. is a not-for-profit, mutual benefit corporation. It was formed in 1964 by landowners in Butte County, California to maintain a water flume built in the late 1800s. The flume originally delivered water to California gold miners. After the gold rush, the flume remained to power a saw mill for the local community (Hart's Mill), and to provide surface water to members for agricultural endeavors and for fire protection. Incidentally, the water's year-round presence in Canyon Creek for over 150 years has created and maintained a unique, diverse, vibrant, riparian ecosystem.
The flume was a series of pipes on trestles and earthen ditches that conveyed water for three miles along the sides of mountains and through ravines from below Lake Madrone, CA to Canyon Creek, all located in Butte County, California.
The water conveyed by this system was the life-sustaining force for homesteads, farms, families, individuals, animals, trees, fish, birds and many other living things. The trestles and pipes were totally destroyed in a 2020 fire called the "North Complex West Zone" fire (formerly known as the "Bear fire"). The lands adjoining Canyon Creek, and the Canyon Creek ecosystem have thrived because of this year-round water.
In order to rebuild, dangerous and burned trees, some of them large, old-growth fir, must be cut and removed. Some of you who have experienced what it costs to get an arborist to remove a problem tree in your yard can imagine the cost to do something like that for three miles of heavy forest. Then the burned out trestles will need to be replaced with a more durable structure of concrete and steel, which will require engineers, contractors and materials in a high-demand environment. Lastly, we'll need to purchase and install new pipe.
Berry Creek Water Users, Inc. is not-for-profit, but not a public corporation. It is funded solely by members who pay dues. Most members live below poverty level or are on limited or fixed income. BCWU is also small, so it is not considered a large class of people, so IRS rules do not allow us to access grants or funds from local charities. We are not eligible for FEMA funds because of applicable FEMA rules. The flume was not insured. The board checked into insurance a few years ago and Lloyd's of London was our only option and it was unaffordable. The amount of money required to clean up and rebuild is completely beyond the reach of our 24 members, but with your help, we can do it!
Here is a glimpse of the Canyon Creek ecosystem as it existed a year ago and now with no water because flume destroyed by fire. Fish, crawfish and other occupants dead. Trees dying. Rebuilding in time will allow us to restore this vibrant, riparian ecosystem.
In May of 2020, we did extensive work to level one of the existing trestles and to replace the rusty, leaking steel pipe with long-life HDPV double-walled pipe. This is one of the trestle/pipe sections destroyed by the fire (top right and left looking in the direction the water came from with new pipe and leveled trestle; bottom right and left looking in the direction in which the water flowed with old pipe and sagging trestle). Notice the heavily wooded, steep terrain. The old pipes that remain in the burn photo are are 1920's iron versions long ago rusted through and abandoned.
Here is another section of pipe and trestle, also completely burned away.
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