Sunday, February 5, 2017

Declining coho run on Lagunitas Creek: It's the damned dams, Stoopid!

An Open Letter to Alastair Bland:

Who, in an article, Big Rains Bring Both Good and Bad News for Salmon, for of newsdeeply.com, wrote that: "Lagunitas Creek and its lower tributaries, have been lined with bank fortifications and berms that confine the streams to their main channels..." are the real problem for failing coho salmon runs ... Not.

Hmm, that's MY creek you're talking about, Mr. Bland, and there are no berms on Lagunitas Creek. NONE! Unless you're referring to the dams on upper Lagunitas Creek, they are called, you know, flat-out dams, not berms.

As to your reference to the damage to the lower tributaries, you're way off mark (have you ever heard of primary investigation vs using Wiki as a reference, bolstered by a Marin Municipal Water District quotes. Nice touch, BTW. Lends a real air of authenticity.

Has it also ever occurred to you that MMWD just MIGHT be part of the main problem? Not exactly an unbiased source. Think about a a moment. I'll wait. Five dams. Has the penny dropped?) Oh, right. Dams! MMWD's bread and butter. Ka-ching!

One main tributary to Lagunitas Creek (other than Olema Creek), the San Geronimo/Creamery Creek does not have extensive berms, and certainly not any new channeling, and the fish runs were huge when I was a kid.

I know damned near every bend of these creeks. (And most of the tributaries). And I have swum in, or ridden most of the streambeds. On Lagunitas Creek, south of Kent Lake Dam, Devil's Gulch Creek, another main tributary, has NO berms whatsoever... never had them, so this is bogus info. Total bullshit. Olema Creek, ditto. Cowshit might contribute to the problem in Point Reyes. But I have seen silver salmon runs where the water was roiling with fish in cowshitted water.

There was a fish ladder (at Roy's Dam) on the San Geronimo Creek in San Geronimo. Unless the fish ladder was later removed, SPAWN's claim to fame is somewhat hyperbolic. The fact, that in 1997, the fish were still navigating San Geronimo Creek suggests it wasn't a problem. I distinctly remember going to the ladders to watch the coho navigate the steps in the 1970s.

It is possible that the SGV Golf Course changed the structure of the ladder ca. the late 1980s, early 1990s, and I wouldn't have witnessed it. (From what I can gather, upon further sleuthing, the fish ladder was in disrepair, and fixed in 1999 and Roy's Dam—if you can call it a dam— was removed).

Maybe Andy Giddings has more specific info on the SGV creek fishladder as his father was Fish & Game Warden for the San Geronimo Valley during the 1950s-1980s?

BTW, Fish also made it all the way up to our tertiary creeks, Barranca and Arroyo during the 1960s.

On San Geronimo Creek, where it meet Lagunitas Creek, Shafter's Pool was dammed during the summer, but that practice stopped in the late 50s, early 60s. It was a seasonal dam, a summer swimming hole for kids. It had zero impact on coho runs. And the salmon were still plentiful. No other dams on the creek. So what exactly are you talking about?

The silver salmon and the coho runs declined in the 80s-90s, there's something else at work: like over-fishing. Oh, and the biggest "berm" of all, Kent Lake Dam—is probably the biggest reason of all why critical fish habitat was destroyed. (The other dams date back to the 'teens" so they didn't have a huge recent impact on failing coho runs of the 1990s.

Lake Lagunitas dam was built 1872, Alpine Dam 1917, Bon Tempe 1948, Kent Lake (Peter's) Dam, the largest reservoir, in 1954—it was still filling up in the late 50s. The dam was raised 45 feet in 1982, after the drought of the 70s. Nicasio Dam was added in 1962.) And then there was the drought. Did I mention drought. As in several back-to-back long-term drought cycles?

So, to be clear, Lagunitas Creek (and its three forks) is dammed at Lake Lagunitas, which drains into Bon Tempe Lake, then to Alpine Dam, then to Kent Lake Dam, then to Lagunitas Creek at the confluence of San Geronimo Creek. Note: they are full blown DAMS not berms.

And then there's Nicasio Creek, which flows from the Nicasio Reservoir (1962), to Platform Bridge, where it joins Lagunitas Creek— another damned dam, to the mix. That's the source of the problem. All the damned dams.

FYI: From Kent Lake to the sea, Lagunitas Creek is a wild creek through Samuel P.Taylor Park, through Jewel, around the bend, past Devil's Gulch, past McIsaac's Ranch, my cousin's Gallagher Ranch at Elephant/Black Mountain, to Point Reyes Station, to the Point Reyes bridge....still NO channels or berms, on to White House Pool, that I can recall—then it empties into Tomales Bay... Even Olema Creek is not bermed. So, what are you talking about?

Seriously, this makes me steaming mad. Self-serving SPAWN (litigious Todd Steiner's Salmon Protection and Watershed Network) began its alternative truth campaign in 1997, which has been wildly successful at obfuscation and litigation...probably leading to some of the factoids in your article, a case in point. It's the damned dams that are the problem. And droughts. DI I mention the droughts???

Otherwise, a good article...


Google Maps screenshot of San Geronimo Creek headwaters. Roy's Dam was at the golf course, where SGV Rd turns up to Nicasio road.



(Look into SPAWN's finances, and massive overhead vs. actual good, for a story. Follow the money–and the lawsuits. There's a reason why there's an alternative salmon organization in the SGV.)

"SPAWN has become more hindrance than help in the effort to restore coho salmon to Lagunitas Creek. It has sued the county three times since 2005, basically claiming Marin does little to protect salmon from the impacts of development. The outcomes of these suits are mostly unimpressive — a lone result is the county being forced to pay SPAWN’s legal expenses of more than $650,000 for work reportedly done pro bono.

“While I respect SPAWN’s passion to restore the coho salmon, I disagree vehemently with their efforts to repeatedly sue the county in an effort to restrict homeowners from improving their properties,” Steve Kinsey, a Marin County Supervisor who represents Lagunitas Creek residents, recently said. “It has been proven repeatedly that coho endangerment comes primary from dams, droughts and ocean warming — not from a new deck built some distance from the creek.” Kinsey would prefer that SPAWN work collaboratively with the county, MMWD and the Marin Conservation League." —Marin Magazine, Oct. 2016



Check out the San Geronimo Valley Stewards on Facebook, a great site for vintage photos that depict  the valley and its history. One of their primary goals is to document the salmon and steelhead in the San Geronimo Valley. 






NOAA's Roys Dam Fishway Project. Note that some of the photos showing the fishladder disrepair, were taken during the drought years during high summer... a bit misleading. Still, I'm glad it has been repaired. Roy's Dam wasn't exactly a dam, but it's gone now. Which begs the question as to why the fishladder needed to be restored if the dam was gone...

 Alastair Bland allybland79@gmail.com


San Geronimo Valley Flood Protection and Watershed Program  Apparently replacing a rusted culvert with a bridge, is touted as a fish passage restoration project. OK, why not call it creek clean-up? Why does this make me so cranky? Because it reeks of superciliousness.

Fish passage restoration on Arroyo Creek tributary to San Geronimo Creek (2010).

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