The Coastal Post - June, 1997

The Bolinas Fairy Tale

BY JOSH CHURCHMAN

Did you ever read a fairy tale where the hero needs to find the fruit of happiness and bring it to the king before he can marry the princess? When he starts out, he meets an old wise person who will help him find the fruit of happiness if the prince will only bring the wise person the sword of brightness. Then it turns out that the owner of the sword will only trade it for a few drops of the water of life, and on the story goes until finally the water of life is found and everything else falls neatly into place.

In the fairy tale of the Bolinas Lagoon and its struggle for the water of life, we are the hero who must comply with the wishes of a sea of agencies if we are to save the life of our lagoon.

On one hand there is the Save the Lagoon Committee that is fighting to get the Army Corps to come in and really save the day by removing enough mud to allow the lagoon to flush itself out again the way it did before people came and filled it in to make expensive homes with private lagoons, logged the watersheds, diverted creeks and all the rest of it that is now history. And I personally really hope and pray that this big project will happen. But I can just venture a guess that it will be five years minimum before one speck of mud is removed.

In the present, which is where most of us live, the lagoon is suffering badly. The fish and diving birds populations are declining. Only the seals thrive, and they too will be homeless if the lagoon closes off from the sea.

There has been some serious talk about privately funding a small restoration project to restore the channel that separates Bolinas from Kent Island. This is one of the most congested channels in the lagoon and the chances of it remaining a channel for five more years are slim.

This is also the beginning of our fairy tale. The Gulf of the Farallones Sanctuary, of which the Bolinas Lagoon is a part, did not say no to the idea of restoring this channel. The first thing needed was a detailed report from a hydrologist stating that the causes of the closure were man-made and to draft an "environmental restoration plan." The obvious choice for a hydrologist was Phil Williams, who has done much of the recent work on the lagoon. He was very interested in the idea, but he is under contract with the Army Corps and therefore would need a letter from them requesting the work. The Army Corps is also very concerned with the present condition of the lagoon, and would be glad to ask Phil Williams to do the work if they had a request from the Marin County Open Space District who "own" the lagoon. The Open Space District is reluctant to support any project because it might affect the success of the big project. And there we are, if you can't get the last thing on the list, you get nothing. The story is not over yet, and the lagoon is still alive, but I strongly feel that doing something is far better than doing nothing. And I do not understand how a small restoration project should threaten the much-needed big one. On the contrary, I can see many ways the two could go well together.

If you want to find out more about this, I would suggest calling our new County Supervisor and asking him what his plan is if the lagoon closes off before any project is started, and what his reasoning is behind stalling a privately-funded project aimed at saving the island that the Kent family gave Marin County as a gift. Please become a character in this fairy tale of well-meaning agencies working hard to do nothing for the beautiful Bolinas Lagoon. Call Steve Kinsey at 499-7331.