SPAWN lands stimulus funds to prevent salmon-killing silt from polluting Marin’s streams

By August 7, 2010Uncategorized

EAST CINTURA Road in Lagunitas is a pocked and pitted mess, but a half million dollars in federal stimulus money will help smooth the street and help local fish populations to boot.

Ten similar rough roads covering 2.2 miles in the San Geronimo Valley will see a transformation that will help endangered coho salmon and threatened steelhead trout by reducing sediment that runs off the dusty drives.

“We want to reduce the erosive forces that create these gullies and move sediment,” said Paola Bouley, conservation director of the Forest Knolls-based Salmon Protection and Watershed Network, as she stood in a mini-crater on East Cintura Road. “A lot of the sediment from these roads discharge directly into creeks.”

East Cintura Road sits across from Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and San Geronimo Creek, which is home to the coho and trout. When it rains, fine sediment from the road washes downhill and ends up at the creek bottom, smothering areas where eggs are laid and where fish find their food. As a result, Marin’s coho salmon population is on the verge of collapse.

“All together, these collaborative neighborhood road repair projects will prevent enough fine sediment to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool from entering local streams where it can harm salmon eggs and fry,” said Chris Van Schaak, land steward for the fish protection group.

The $525,0000 that SPAWN received in federal stimulus dollars also will have the effect of making the roads and nearby property

“The project will help prevent expensive and dangerous landslides,” Van Schaak said.

It’s unclear exactly who owns the roads, but the funding is for “noncounty maintained” streets, Bouley noted.

“It’s not clear whose responsibility they are, but we do know it’s important they are repaired,” she said.

When work begins later this summer, the roads will remain earthen with a gravel cover, but they will be contoured and sloped in a way that water runs off of them, curbing erosion.

The Forest Knolls group has worked with local property owners and has mapped out specific solutions on a road-by-road basis that include re-grading poorly designed streets – some dating to the original subdivisions in the San Geronimo Valley in the 1920s. In addition, plans include the installation of rolling dips to slow stormwater and prevent erosion as well as replacing degraded and often undersized culverts that could blow out during storms.

“It’s good to see SPAWN working with landowners on these types of projects. It’s when they are at their best,” said Marin County Supervisor Steve Kinsey, who represents West Marin. He added that the county is using $600,000 in state funding for its own work to rework fire roads to limit the sediment that ends up in creeks.

SPAWN partnered with the San Francisco Estuary Partnership to get the grant money through the state Proposition 50 Coastal Non-Point Source Pollution fund. Those dollars, however, were in peril after they were frozen during California’s 2009’s economic crisis.

But this year American Resource Recovery Act funds rescued the projects, which are scheduled for completion in fall 2011. The group was also awarded a matching grant of $280,000 from the state Department of Fish and Game to help with stream bank restoration to protect the fish.

“This is perhaps the largest and most complicated of the many restoration projects SPAWN has tackled over the past 10 years, complicated in part by the state budget crisis that stalled the project for over a year,” said Todd Steiner, biologist and executive director of the group.