The County has released the draft San Geronimo Valley Salmon Enhancement Plan (SEP) for public comment and it is important to highlight some basic facts about this plan.
The SEP was produced by highly qualified scientific consultants, hired by the County, to review the biological data on endangered coho, and existing habitat conditions for the salmon in the San Geronimo Valley (SGV), and to make recommendations for pulling this species back from the brink of extinction.
The SEP offers science-based recommendations for consideration on ways local residents and County Supervisors can begin to reverse the perilous decline of salmon that grace our streams. These recommendations have no force of law and are only to inform the public and Board of Supervisors, who after public hearings and input, will ultimately decide to accept, reject, modify or ignore all or some of these recommendations.
Why did the County do the SEP? The study and plan was the result of an agreement between the County and SPAWN for an independent review of the available data and to begin to understand current and future conditions of the environment based on the cumulative impacts of past and current human activities combined with allowable impacts into the future. The County is required under California law to undertake a cumulative impact study before approving new policies that impact the environment, such as the relatively recent County-wide Plan. Lagunitas coho are also State and federally-listed “endangered” species.
The reason for the SEP’s focus on the SGV is simple: this small area represents less than 10% of the Lagunitas Creek Watershed (arguably the coho’s most important watershed left in CA), yet produces on average 50% of each year’s spawning numbers and 40% of “smolts, ” the fish that survive their first year of life and migrate out to sea. The entire Marin population of coho is unlikely to survive if this critically important habitat in the SGV continues to degrade.
What does the SEP say? These are direct quotes from this study by the independent scientist authors:
is on the brink of extinction” (p.42); and
The SEP suite of recommendations includes creating incentives to encourage existing landowners to implement voluntary actions to improve salmon habitat, and some actions that tighten up existing County regulations to protect salmon habitat from further degradation.
Voluntary actions include recommendations for replacing non-native plants with natives, installing rainwater harvesting systems, and reducing impermeable surfaces.
New regulations are recommended that would prohibit new development in a 35-ft buffer adjacent to the stream to prevent additional loss of creekside habitat, which is critical to the survival of salmon.
Contrary to rumor, the SEP does NOT recommend mandatory County inspections of creek-side residences, or require existing houses, gardens or fences to be removed, or create a situation where landowners cannot use the 35-foot buffer for low impact activities.
It is worth noting that all of these recommendations not only protect salmon, but provide human benefits as well including helping reduce flooding risks for downstream creekside homeowners, preventing streambank erosion and loss of property that reduces property values, and reducing pollution into our streams where our children play and into Tomales Bay where oyster farms thrive.
The study is a wake-up call to all who do want our salmon to survive and recover. This independent study confirmed SPAWN’s worst fears that coho will blink out of our lives in the very near future if we fail to act to curb the environmental degradation in the SGV. Without action we stand to lose a legacy that belongs to not only all the residents of Marin, but to the millions of Californians who enjoy viewing salmon in Taylor State Park, and all US tax-payers whose have collectively invested millions of federal dollars to recover this endangered species.
SPAWN will not sit by quietly and let the coho go extinct. We believe this report begins to lay a road map for balancing the needs of local residents and the coho that “belong” to everyone and no-one. We will continue to work for, and with, everyone who shares our vision of a future that includes wild salmon swimming through our streams that run though our shared backyards, as we have been doing for the past decade. We invite you to join us in working to assure a legacy that our grandchildren will thank us for.
We recommend everyone read the County Plan (it can be downloaded at http://www.marinwatersheds.org/ and attend the public hearing next Thurs Oct 15 from 7-9:30PM in the Lagunitas School Multipurpose Room to speak up for healthy streams and wild salmon.
SPAWN has also produced our Q & A fact sheet available at http://spawnusa.org/pages/page-281.