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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

April, 2008


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Moo Town News
"SPAWNing Hypocrisy"
By Judy Borello

Last month in my P.S. I said it was unfair for Marin County to slap a "temporary" moratorium prohibiting the issuance of building permits on certain private properties within the San Geronimo Valley watershed. The way I see it, the moratorium has more to do with political shenanigans, the trampling of private property rights, unproven science and the County's evasion of a threatened lawsuit from SPAWN, than it does with the protection of salmon. The situation even involves a development project proposed by SPAWN on that same watershed, which had more environmental impact than some of the projects that have been stopped by the moratorium. SPAWN has since apparently dropped its development plans in the face of some very negative publicity that brought the organization's hypocrisy and NIMBYism to glaring light.
In the first place, it's impossible to attribute the low salmon stocks this year to development along the creek. As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere, the chief suspect for the crisis, according to biologists, is "a change in cold-water ocean currents that has disrupted the food chain that fish depend on." So why has Marin County taken such drastic action at the expense of private landowners?

By its own admission, the County said it had been put on notice by SPAWN that SPAWN planned to file suit against it following the adoption of the Countywide Plan. SPAWN apparently didn't succeed in making things ridiculously difficult enough already for property owners and farmers within Stream Conservation Areas. At the February 12th Board of Supervisors meeting, County Counsel told the supes that they should do a deal with SPAWN and impose a moratorium so the County could avoid the threatened lawsuit. Supervisors also citied "risks of litigation from environmental organizations" as their reason. How environmentally scientific is this? Sounds more like blackmail than science.

In the County's report detailing how it will alleviate conditions, which led to the moratorium - in other words, to justify their decision - the Supervisors have authorized funding $300,000 of your taxpayer money to develop a "Request for Proposal for a Salmonid Habitat Enhancement Plan" and indicated that they will also seek additional funding.

What makes this scene even more unfair is that in 2006, SPAWN proposed a commercial and multi-family project to house its "Education Center," housing two full-time residents, accommodate 12 employees, receive 60 visitors a month, contain a 40-seat classroom and provide ample parking including bus parking, right on the stream that they want everyone else to stay away from!

In a public document prepared by Questa Engineering Corp. comparing SPAWN's so-called "Fish and Earth Friendly Demonstration Project" to a proposal by one of Questa's private clients to build a modest house, a point-by-point comparison of the two projects shows that the private landowner's proposed structure's distance to the perennial creek was 300 feet while the SPAWN structure is 175; the proposed wastewater design flow for the private landowner's system was 210 gallons per day vs. 345 for SPAWN; the treatment system and the disposal method proposed for the private landowner's project were code-compliant; those proposed by SPAWN were not. The private property's leachfield was to be located 300 feet from the perennial creek, vs. SPAWN's at just 100 feet. The slope stability hazard was rated "low" for the private property, compared to a "high" rating for the streambanks on the SPAWN property.

How can SPAWN, in good faith, seek to prevent this private landowner, who has spent his life savings on permits and studies and cannot afford an expensive lawyer to fight this, when its own proposed development so obviously had the potential to impact the creek more intensely?

How is it that powerful, well-funded NGOs can bully their way to their self-serving goals by manipulating Marin's government to roll over on the little guy, in this case the private property owner? This is Mob Rule at its most egregious, and is not the way our democracy is supposed to work!

P.S. With all the clamor against aerial spraying of the light brown apple moth, somebody should figure out a way for those who oppose spraying to help with ground-based efforts to eradicate the pest RIGHT NOW, so come August there won't be a need to spray! People were motivated to be trained how to clean up oil spills. These same people should be given the training and the tools to help place twist ties all over the county. And don't kid yourself that the LBAM's destruction won't be devastating. Never mind the oaks, redwoods and roses this moth has the potential to destroy. If it gains a foothold in Marin's farms, our growers will be forced to quarantine and spray their produce with pesticide. Say goodbye to local, organic food. Locavores: UNITE AND TWIST TIE!


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