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County drops appeal of stream ruling

Marin County has dropped its appeal of a court ruling that upheld environmental protection of creeks and streams by limiting the building of homes within 100 feet of the waterways.

An environmental group sued the county after Marin supervisors approved construction of a 3,649-square-foot house, 768-square-foot garage and parking for five vehicles within 100 feet of San Geronimo Creek in April 2003.

The Salmon Protection and Watershed Network contended that an official environmental review, as required by the California Environmental Quality Act, should have been completed before the supervisors made their decision.

Last November, Marin Superior Court Judge Lynn Duryee agreed.

“The county erred procedurally and substantially in concluding that the project is categorically exempt from CEQA review,” Duryee wrote in that decision.

Initially, the county intended to appeal the decision, but now has decided against it.

“We decided it was something we weren’t interested in,” said County Counsel Patrick Faulkner.

“The county has made the right decision to drop its appeal,” said Michael Graf, an attorney for the plaintiffs. “This is good for the rule of law, and a wise decision that will benefit the endangered fish and is in the best interest of the people of Marin County.”

County officials had exempted prospective builders of single-family homes from the CEQA environmental review process if the property owners outlined in advance the steps they planned to take to minimize environmental damage or could show the effects would be negligible.

The decision by the county comes on the heels of a determination by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week to change the Central California coast coho from “threatened” to “endangered.” The state of California is also in the process of listing coho salmon as endangered on the California endangered species list.