Moo Town News
No Cents Or Nonsense
By Judy Borello
San Francisco Water Quality Control Board estimates the cleaning up of Tomales Bay would cost between $15.6 and $73.5 million dollars. Then in the next
breath, the water board says that DNA testing is too costly! What DNA testing
does instead of shotgunning everything (cows, sheep, humans and wildlife), is
pinpoints where the bacteria source is coming from.
It can pinpoint human or animal and then separate which animal is the culprit.
While the San Francisco Water Quality Control Board negates the use of DNA fingerpinting methods to source track the pathogens, others have used the method with very positive results in finding the real culprits.
Morro Bay used extensive DNA fingerprinting methods a while back and came up with some surprising results. The birds and sea mammals were proven to be the highest form of pathogenic sources.
In 2003, Campbell's cove in Bodega Bay, health officials found high coliform counts. After securing a grant from the State Water Resource Control Board in Sacramento to conduct a DNA testing method known as ribotyping and the result was the pathogens were from seagulls and from Marine Mammals, particularly sea lions and harbor seals. Sonoma County health specialist Jeff Lewin said, "The ribotyping method, while not cheap, was far more reliable than the traditional non-specific coliform bacteria testing and allowed the County of Sonoma to not waste resources pursuing the culprit.
In Mission Bay, San Diego County did DNA fingerprinting tests last year. After years of studies and millions of dollars spent unsuccessfully, presuming that the contamination came from humans, DNA test results showed two-thirds of the pathogens were from bird droppings.
DNA fingerprinting methods are becoming the standard across the country. Virginia, North Carolina and Maryland, are just a few of the states that are using this technology.
The question that's pertinent is what we gain from DNA fingerprinting. Is it human, domestic animals or wildlife.
To know exactly what we're dealing with in terms of pollution makes a lot more sense than speculation and perceptions. It may cost $1 to $2 million to do DNA fingerprinting on the Tomales Bay Watershed, but that's way cheaper than spending $15 to $73 million to clean up the bay by knowing exactly what you're targeting instead of "shotgunning" the unproved sources of pollution everywhere.
The San Francisco Water Quality Control Board report estimates that mandated report upgrades and monitoring could cost the 151 ranches in the Tomales Bay watershed between $4.8 and $20 million over 10 years.
Wouldn't it be most prudent to get the correct, provable answers to the bay's pollution problems and save millions for everybody involved.
Most of my information for this subject came from the Pt. Reyes Light on March 17, written by Jacob Resneck.
Fast forward yourself to 40 to 50 years from now. In the old days Tomales Bay used to go all the way down to the Olema Farmhouse. Schooners would pull in and disembark passengers and cargo. I wrote a column some years ago titled "Mud Flat Bay" referring to the siltation that's been built up in Tomales Bay for many years. The Big Flood of January 4, 1982 dumped hundreds of thousands of tons of silt from Redwood Canyon on the Inverness side of the bay. What nature did in one day, mankind couldn't accomplish in three decades.
Two biologists have told us over the past 20 years that in order to keep the bay healthy, it would need to be dredged. The last estimate of the cost of dredging Mud Flat Bay was $10 million. That was over 15 years ago. Those of us who lived here for at least 20 years or more can actually see the bay fill up. Project yourself 40 to 50 years into the future. There won't be a bay. There might be an inlet.
There is a good possibility there won't be oysters either. The flushing action will slow down and the built-up sediments with all its coliform will suffocate most living sea creatures of any large size.
So with all this talk of millions of dollars floating around-do something right and very necessary for Tomales Bay. DNA testing and dredging.
Then we would really have accomplished something that really counted towards having a beautiful, healthy Tomales Bay.
PS To use these millions wisely is the key to success, otherwise we're just spinning our wheels and wasting time and money.
By the way, drop a million at the Pt. Reyes Light and the Coastal Post for a consulting fee!