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July, 2004

Country Drops Case Protesting Salmon Protection
By Todd Steiner

Marin County, CA-Marin County has decided to drop its appeal of environmentalist's victory in State Superior Court to overturn a Marin County permit to construct a new home and garage within the stream conservation area 100 buffer zone along San Geronimo Creek in west Marin. The Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN), Tomales Bay Association and Marin County finalized the signed settlement agreement this week.

Marin Superior Court Judge Lynn Duryee ruled in November 2003 that the County of Marin was in violation of CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) when they approved the development in "sensitive creekside habitat" without first completing the proper environmental review. The County had first indicated that it would appeal, but agreed to drop the appeal during settlement discussions before the first Court of Appeals hearing.

"The County's decision to drop their appeal is further vindication of our efforts to ensure the protection of streamside habitat for the Endangered coho salmon, said Todd Steiner, Director of SPAWN. He continued, "We look forward to working with the County to ensure that critical habitat for the coho salmon not only be protected, but be improved and restored so that the species can recover from its current dire situation."

The decision by the County comes on the heels of a new determination by the US fisheries service last week to up-list the Central California coast coho from "threatened" to "endangered." The State of California is also in the process of listing coho salmon as Endangered on the California Endangered Species List.

The original suit was brought in May 2003, after the County approved a development permit to construct a 3,900 square foot house with an additional 768 square foot garage, parking for five vehicles and intermittent sand filter septic system, located on San Geronimo Creek, on a currently vacant parcel, 20 feet from the creek without first conducting the environmental review.

"The county has made the right decision to drop its appeal," stated Michael Graf, attorney for the plaintiffs. "This is good for the rule of law, and a wise decision that will benefit the endangered fish and is in the best interest of the people of Marin County."

"Reuven Walder, SPAWN's watershed biologist said, "We are happy to turn our attention away from litigation and back to restoration. We have a lot of work to do, replacing culverts to allow salmon to access upstream spawning and nursery habitat, planting trees in the riparian zone, improving water quality and rescuing juvenile salmon from drying pools." He noted that just last week, SPAWN volunteers rescued and relocated its 10,000th juvenile salmon from small tributaries to a flowing stretch of San Geronimo Creek.

Ken Fox, President of Tomales Bay Association said, "We are pleased that the County is finally beginning to understand that it makes more sense to protect the public interest than fight it." Fox added that "The County has been attempting a counterproductive fight of their own policies and other state and federal regulations that are meant to protect the fisheries, now maybe they will begin to embrace those policies and regulations."

The Salmon Protection And Watershed Network (SPAWN) works to protect threatened coho salmon and steelhead and the environment on which we all depend. The protection of these keystone species leads to the protection of all the wildlife of our community, and indeed the protection of our communities and ourselves. SPAWN uses a science-based, multi-faceted approach to accomplish our mission, including research and monitoring, habitat restoration, policy development, environmental education, collaboration with other organization, and media campaigns. SPAWN is a project of Turtle Island Restoration Network.

The Tomales Bay Association is dedicated to preserving and protecting the natural resources and beauty of the Tomales Bay area and its watershed through research, education, and active review of conservation and planning issues. The Association organized an ongoing salmonid monitoring program now run by the National Park Service on Olema Creek, a major tributary to Lagunitas Creek, and has contributed thousands of hours toward restoration efforts throughout the Lagunitas watershed. TBA was a major participant in the 1982 and 1992 State Water Resources Control Board Hearings which culminated in the 1995 SWRCB Order 95-17 to protect coho salmon, steelhead and other aquatic species in Lagunitas Creek, the major tributary to Tomales Bay.

Todd Steiner




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