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Salmon initiatives course through Valley

Endangered fish and their thoroughfares in the San Geronimo Creek Watershed will be the beneficiaries of some $300,000 in funds from the County of Marin and California Coastal Conservancy.
The county, in association with the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN), local landowners and hired consultants, will work over the next two years to develop a Salmon Enhancement Plan intended to improve the survival and habitat of coho salmon and steelhead in the watershed.
The study will assess current watershed conditions and build on exsisting science to come up with a comprehensive plan to preserve one of the largest wild salmon populations left in the state. The plan will address erosion and projects to stabilize creek banks reducing sediment – one of the main threats to the health of the watershed – and have educational outreach programs for landowners on best practices for protecting the fish habitat in their own backyards.
In addition, the plan will explore the impacts of development pressures on the species by addressing the unpermitted structures along the creek beds.
“It will look at what kind, amount and conditions of development are going to be possible near the watershed,” said Joel Gerwein project manager of the California Coastal Conservancy.
In February, the county unanimously approved a two-year moratorium on new construction and building permits in the county’s “stream conservation area” within the San Geronimo Valley. The new plan will help guide future development once the moratorium is exhausted.
Several community meetings to help understand the planning process and impacts of development pressures on habitat have been organized by the county. The first will be held on June 23 at 7:00 pm at the Woodacre Improvement Club, 3 Garden Way in Woodacre.
According to SPAWN, this winter’s run of salmon in the San Geronimo Valley was the lowest recorded in 12 years of monitoring. The salmonoid populations in San Geronimo and Lagunitas creek dropped 70 percent from last year. That’s especially bad news considering Coho populations in Lagunitas creek and its tributaries make up to 20 percent of the wild fishery in the state, said SPAWN biologists.
In response, the county and the California Coastal Conservancy contributed $300,000 dollars for implementing a plan. The conservancy not only granted $100,000 dollars toward the Salmon Enhancement Plan but also granted $185,000 dollars in a separate project for a fish underpass in Woodacre Creek, a tributary to Lagunitas Creek. The new culvert will replace an old one that acts as a roadblock to spawning salmon. The new culvert will simulate a creek with a cobble bottom designed for fish to think it’s part of the creek.
The Salmon Enhancement Plan should be completed by October 2009 after a series of meetings scheduled over the next 18 months. “This project will complement other county efforts to restore habitat for coho salmon,” said Supervisor Steve Kinsey in a press release. “It underlines our commitment to protecting and nurturing our fisheries back from the brink of extinction.”