The closure of the San Geronimo Golf Course in Marin County opens up conservation opportunity.

Marin County, Calif. – The recent purchase of the San Geronimo Golf Course by Marin County has opened up a conservation opportunity for Marin-based ocean and coastal watersheds protection nonprofit, Turtle Island Restoration Network.

Earlier this year, $2.9 million in grant funding from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) was awarded to Turtle Island Restoration Network for their salmon conservation program, SPAWN.

“Restoration of salmon and steelhead habitat remains as challenging as ever,” CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham said. “It remains as important as ever to continue to support the work of our state’s restoration leaders through projects like these.”

The funds from two grants will support floodplain restoration and fish barrier removal in the Lagunitas Creek watershed that will directly improve fish passage and habitat for the critically endangered coho salmon.

“The Fish Restoration and Proposition One grant programs independently recommended these golf course projects for funding,” said Todd Steiner, executive director of Turtle Island Restoration Network.  “This underscores the importance of this habitat for the recovery of the critically endangered coho salmon.”

Today, Marin’s coho salmon population is a fraction of what it once was. Removing the fish barrier and restoring habitat could give the species a much needed population boost.

“Current conditions have made it very difficult for coho to travel upstream or downstream through the San Geronimo creek headwaters,” said Preston Brown, director of watershed conservation with Turtle Island Restoration Network. “By removing the barrier, we’ll improve access to over three miles of habitat upstream for coho to spawn and rear, and eliminate the possibility of getting trapped in the artificial pools.”

The removal of the fish barrier and restoration of the floodplain will reduce fish stranding and mortality, create important rearing habitat for young salmon, and allow for year-round upstream and downstream migration for all life stages of not only the endangered coho salmon, but also the threatened steelhead trout and Pacific lamprey.

This project represents one of the highest priority fish passage barriers to be removed in central California.

“We are grateful that two independent groups of technical experts found SPAWN’s plans to be worthwhile and cost-effective remedies to restore salmon habitat,” said Brown. “We appreciate their endorsement of our efforts to save the coho salmon.”

“This isn’t just salmon issue, it’s a human issue,” said Steiner. “The San Geronimo Golf Course is one of the few places where we haven’t developed right up to the water’s edge. By restoring floodplains, we give baby salmon refuge and a fighting chance of surviving high-flow storm events, and we may reduce flooding of downstream houses built along the creek. This is our chance to repair the damage we’ve done and give back to salmon and humans.”