SPAWN has testified for over 7 years at County hearings submitting scientific evidence on behalf of protections, and more recently participated in 3 years of good faith efforts sitting through meetings with the County after SPAWN revealed significant flaws in the 2007 County-Wide Plan Environmental Impact Report.
Concerns about development pressure in Marin's coho habitat focuses on unincorporated west Marin County in the San Geronimo Valley, the last large un-dammed headwaters of the Lagunitas Watershed (Kent Lake and Nicasio Reservoir eliminated the other two major headwaters areas in the last century and approx. 50% of historical salmon habitat). These 9 square-miles of habitat represents less than 9% of the total 102 square-miles of the entire Lagunitas Watershed, but provides coho spawning habitat for approximately 50% of the population that spawns in Lagunitas Creek and upwards of one-third of the coho juvenile rearing habitat.
The semi-rural San Geronimo Valley has approximately 3,500 residents living on 1,500 parcels. Another approximately 900 parcels remain undeveloped, yet face increasing pressure as previous obstacles to development such as the inability to use traditional septic systems have been erased by new technology such as "mound" septic systems. Furthermore, the increased value of land has resulted in new landowners who are building new, larger houses (many with multiple car garages and 2nd units) or replacing the current older modest homes, many of which were originally built as part-time summer cabins. This "gentrification" of the character of the Valley threatens to significantly increase destruction of riparian habitat, increase impervious surfaces and runoff that causes bank failures and sediment erosion, and increase human-associated pollution of the stream systems that will threaten the survival and recovery of coho salmon.
The State lists Lagunitas Creek as "impaired" for sediment, pathogens and nutrients. The San Geronimo Valley is a major source of sediment, both as a result of human development in the headwaters and naturally unstable soils. Residential development is also contributing to increasing pollution of local creeks by pathogens and nutrients from leaking septic systems.
The coho salmon in Marin County are listed as "Endangered" by the State of California and were down-listed from "threatened" to "endangered" under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 2005. Estimates of the annual coho and steelhead population in the Lagunitas Watershed were 6,000 about sixty years ago. Today the annual population of coho is less than 500 spawning females, down to 5-10% of their total historic numbers. Through greatly reduced, the Lagunitas Watershed population represents 10- 20% of all wild California coho surviving today in Central California.
In 2004, SPAWN won a precedent-setting CEQA lawsuit against the County of Marin violations - see http://www.spawnusa.org/pressreleases/number-9.
SPAWN, the Salmon Protection And Watershed Network, is a science-based restoration and advocacy organization working to protect the Marin County's Lagunitas Watershed, which supports California's largest run of coho salmon.
For copies of scientist letters, photos, or more information. visit www.SpawnUSA.org.