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Helping You Help the Watershed

This summer promises to be an exciting and productive season for local residents interested in joining together with the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN) to make improvements to their watershed. For many years the dedicated volunteers at SPAWN have made a big impact protecting and restoring the sensitive habitat for the endangered coho salmon that live in the San Geronimo and Lagunitas Creek watersheds. These efforts have grown and prospered, stories of the success have spread, and the resources that SPAWN has to help the watershed are growing. Thanks to several grants SPAWN is pleased to announce that we will be providing assistance to those interested in installing a rainwater catchment system at their home or workplace and to a limited number of erosion control projects that will reduce sediment erosion into the Lagunitas Creek watershed.

With financial assistance from the Marin Community Foundation, SPAWN is implementing the Marin County Stormwater Catchment & Water Conservation Initiative, which seeks to encourage stormwater harvesting from roofs at residential, public and commercial facilities to reduce the impacts of stormwater runoff on the creeks and provide a means for water conservation. When pulses of stormwater reach the creeks running through local neighborhoods, there are often negative impacts to the sensitive freshwater shrimp, coho salmon, steelhead trout, and many other invertebrate species that live in them year-round. Negative impacts of stormwater runoff to creeks can include siltation of creek beds from eroding sediment and the introduction of excess nutrients and contaminants into creeks as they wash off of hardscape surfaces. These impacts affect endangered coho salmon during fall and winter months at the critical times of spawning, embryo development, and alevin growth. Small amounts of metals, pesticides, and nitrogen accumulate throughout the year on street surfaces and rooftops from the deposition of fine particulate matter that is carried throughout the atmosphere from as far away as China. When these small amounts of toxic compounds are combined in the runoff from an entire community, the total amount reaching our creeks is cause for concern. With our work this summer, SPAWN is hoping to help as many concerned citizens as possible trap this “first flush” stormwater runoff in residential and commercial rainwater catchment systems and keep them out of the creeks. The fine sediments in the stormwater typically bind-up contaminants then settle to the bottom of the catchment systems, which can be cleaned out during the summer months.

Additionally, the Marin County Stormwater Catchment & Water Conservation Initiative program at SPAWN can reduce the demand for precious municipal water for landscaping uses, educate the public regarding limited water resources, and encourage water conservation throughout Marin County. The need for water conservation throughout the state and in Marin is already making front-page headlines. Benefits of capturing and using water on-site including reducing the impact of drawing well water from our the limited water table, reducing the release of chloramines from municipal water during landscape watering, reducing the use of electricity to pump water (Marin Municipal Water District is one of the largest users of electricity on Marin County), reducing our carbon footprint and reducing the creation of global warming gasses caused by generating electricity.

Erosion of sediment from creek banks and dirt roads into our coho salmon spawning habitat can ruin the gravel beds that these endangered fish swim hundreds of miles to return home and spawn. SPAWN has partnered with several local environmental consulting firms to survey areas of concern, develop erosion control plans, and implement new projects to stabilize creek banks and reduce sediment runoff from dirt roads. We can help you protect your valuable creek side property and access roads thanks to our new grants.

To learn more about these rewarding programs at SPAWN, please join us at the San Geronimo Valley Community Center on June 19th from 7:00-9:00pm for Summer Seminar #1, Helping You Help the Watershed. Until then, I’ll see you at the creek!