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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

October, 2005

 

Sierra Club Endorses "Death of an Estuary"
By Josh Churchman

Bolinas Lagoon may hold the record for the most money spent on studies.
The Sierra Club's spokesperson, Gordon Bennett is against any "restoration" of the Bolinas Lagoon.
In an odd twist of reality, the Sierra Club is against dredging because of the "uncertainty that surrounds any restoration project and the concern for marine organisms that may suffer or die during the dredging process."
However, when the Bolinas Lagoon does close off from the ocean (periodic or not) all those marine organisms that rely on oxygen and nutrients from the daily tidal cycle will die. All the clams, worms, fish and countess others will suffocate.
The birds will be OK. Of all the creatures that use the Bolinas Lagoon, the birds have been studied and documented above all others. There are no studies on current or past fish populations. The populations of birds has changed over the past thirty years from a diving bird dominance in the 1970s to a marsh bird dominance currently. This tells a story of the lagoon's destiny.
One hundred years ago, before the roads were improved, the people of Bolinas used boats to commute to San Francisco. Boats took cargo and people to and from Bolinas regularly and the boats were not small. There are hundreds of historical photographs of the various schooners that plied their trade through the mouth of the lagoon into the ever-rough waters off the Golden Gate.
History shows that this lagoon has never closed off from the ocean before, and history also shows that this lagoon has never been shallower or closer to closure than ever before as well.
It is an opinion-not a fact, that the Bolinas Lagoon will stay open to the sea. It is also an opinion that everything will be fine if there is a "temporary" closure.
One analogy might be to compare the Bolinas Lagoon to an aquarium. Today the pumps are on, the tides are moving water in and out, the fish are swimming and the clams are filtering food and oxygen. In an aquarium if the pump is turned off and the heater or chiller is turned off for a day or two, everything in the aquarium dies. It is tragic. Why wouldn't the same principle apply for an estuary?
"New science shows that the current sedimentation of the lagoon is ocean borne." Each year there is new science that renders all previous science obsolete.
Sand from the ocean does not stay suspended in the water long enough to travel several miles up into the "mud flats" of the Bolinas Lagoon.
New science has a new meaning when organizations like the Sierra Club can have an outcome in mind and then steer the science or data towards the outcome of choice.
To say the Bolinas Lagoon has always been a shallow mud-filled estuary is not a fact. It is another opinion that supports a "do nothing" solution.
History shows that large wooden schooners traveled far up into the lagoon. There is no possible way that one of these old schooners could even enter the mouth of the lagoon today, even at the highest tide of the year. How can the Sierra Club say nothing has changed when local residents have seen drastic changes over the past thirty years?
Beware the Sierra Club and its "no worries" attitude.
Humankind has influenced the Bolinas Lagoon immensely. We have filled her in to build homes. We have manipulated her shorelines, we have logged her hillsides and we have studied parts of her in depth. There can be no doubt that human interaction with the Bolinas Lagoon has been detrimental and it has accelerated the natural processes.
Do we have an obligation for ourselves and for future generations to "restore" the Bolinas Lagoon? I think we do and the Sierra Club thinks we do not. An ecosystem is complex. It is a melding of not only birds and seals. An ecosystem like the lagoon is based on tidal flow. Eventually Bolinas Lagoon would develop a new ecosystem if it were to close off from the sea. But today, the current ecosystem needs fresh, new water every day.
If no dredging means an end to an ecosystem like the lagoon, is the environmental cost too high?
Why does the Sierra Club want the Bolinas Lagoon left high and dry? I thought they were pro-environment.

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