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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

September, 2007



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The Bolinas Lagoon Dilemma
By Josh Churchman

Everybody can see the Bolinas Lagoon is now more mod flat than it is water at low tide. Even the science community that has studied the situation of this precious piece of water agrees the lagoon will soon become a marsh and then a meadow.
The transition from lagoon to meadow is where the uncertainty resides. How long will it take? What will it look like as the transition unfolds? What creatures will stay and who will be forced to leave when ocean water no longer feeds the area with fresh salt water?

Theories abound but facts remain illusive. One theory is that the transition will be smooth and painless, a natural event that has taken place countless times. Another theory is that there will be a mass die-off of all the organisms that need renewed salt water to survive. First will be the worms and clams, and as their decaying bodies sour the remaining water the fish will follow. With no fish, the birds and seals will leave the area and only the smell will remain.

Somewhere in between these extremes lies the outcome. The dilemma lies in all the choices. Do we stand aside and continue to study the changes? Do we dredge out enough mud so the lagoon stays connected to the sea? Do we dredge out all the mud that has accumulated from human impacts and restore it to the sixty-foot deep lagoon it was two hundred years ago?

One of the biggest arguments amongst the various groups is the definition of a "natural process." Lagoons have been filling in naturally for thousands of years and Bolinas Lagoon is just fulfilling its destiny in one argument. The other side argues that if this is a "natural" process then it must have been "natural" for mankind to log the watersheds and cause the dramatic siltration. If the logging was "natural" then dredging would also be part of this process as well.

Nobody is going to filter all this out anytime soon. The Marin county Open "Space District has been trying to line up all the differing points of view, and all the various agencies that want input into the process for many years and they have finally decided to pass the job on to the Gulf of the Farallones Marine Sanctuary.

Part of the Bolinas Lagoon was filled in the early sixties to create what is now the exclusive community of Seadrift. Farmers diverted both of the major creeks that flow into the lagoon to improve their grazing land. San Francisco was built and rebuilt from the lumber that once surrounded the lagoon. Schooners were the fastest form of transportation from Bolinas to San Francisco. We have paved the Lagoon's shorelines and all of this is part of the Lagoon's shorelines and all of this is part of the lagoon's natural destiny.

The question I have is what are we leaving for the next generation? Will it be a filing cabinet full of study results and a Lagoon struggling to become a meadow? Will the Bolinas Lagoon still have salt water coursing thru its veins? Nature is not making any new lagoons to replace the ones we let fill in.

A friend told mine that "as we get older the parameters of our ignorance increase." Perhaps we will find that the more we study the lagoon the more we will uncover how little we really know about the "natural" processes going on all around us.

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