We urge you to strengthen Marin’s proposed Streamside Conservation Area Ordinance and return to the core principles of the 2007 plan that development in SCAs should be minimized and strickly controlled. This will ensure protections for the critically endangered coho salmon that reside in the County’s currently very dry streams, and to expand their chances for recovery to sustainable population levels. Coho salmon are already critically endangered, but the new stream ordinance proposed plus the current drought are threatening this species to the brink of extinction. The largest, most important population of this species resides in Marin County, CA. But the new stream ordinance promotes real estate development without requiring any meaningful mitigation measures to protect this iconic endangered species. In fact, instead of supporting salmon restoration, it likely makes their survival more tenuous. While Central California Coho salmon have disappeared from streams spanning their historic range, the San Geronimo Watershed supports one of the strongest remaining populations of this species of anywhere in California. Despite the need to protect this vital area, the proposed rules will allow more than 500,000 square feet of new development (the equivalent of two WalMart stores) inside the so-called 100-foot Stream Conservation Area on developed parcels within the tiny ten square miles of the San Geronimo Watershed alone. To make matters worse, the ordinance also allows more than another 500,000 sq ft of new construction on undeveloped parcels. The board of supervisors need to stop pretending that salmon protection is consistent with development that is too near to our streams, stop playing politics and get down to serious business of protecting this threatened species. Marin county needs to be guided by science not politics otherwise we will loose our coho salmon species. The annual spawning runs of Marin's coho salmon have already dwindled by 90% of historic levels. A strong science-based stream ordinance may be the last chance to save this legacy species from what federal biologists have termed "an extinction vortex” when the coho salmon population dipped to all-time lows four years ago. The number of coho and their nests seen to date are the fewest in 17 years. Marin’s federally endangered coho salmon species should be hitting the peak of their annual run right now, but due to the lack of rain their population size has decreased by the hundreds. The coho salmon population in Marina county this time of year should be at about 500 salmon, but their population is down to only 100 salmon. Their normal spawn areas are lacking the amount of fresh water needed. “The december rains typically help facilitate the return of the coho from the sea to their spawning grounds. The coho complete a three-year lifecycle in which they are born in streams, travel to open sea, then return to their native creeks to spawn and die.” (Prado, 2014) The average rainfall for december is 9.61 inches and we have only received a minuscule 1.17 inches. The water district released water from its reservior system into creeks on November 1st, December 1st, and January 1st. This effort is helpful, but not the answer to the problem as coho tend to “respond to the chemical cues from the runoff from the watershed and without rains they do not get that signal.” (Prado, 2014) Drought conditions point to the importance of maintaining quality habitat in Marin for the fish by implementing environmental protection ordinances. We can't continue to promote real estate development without considering how we can support and restore our important population of coho salmon before it's too late. There is clear scientific consenus of the need to limit development along our salmon streams if the coho are to survive. Any ordinance to protect salmon will help protect other species that rely on the same healthy streams such as smaller salmon like chum, pink, and chinook fry. We must take action now. Sign our petition and let the Marin County Board of Supervisors know we want them to write an improved SCA ordinance that protects Marin County's critically endangered coho salmon from further habitat loss. Thanks to conservation work by SeaTurtles.org and allies, coho salmon have a fighting chance to recover from the brink of extinction. Join our community at SeaTurtles.org to protect the streams and oceans where beautiful species like coho salmon, chum, sea turtles, sharks, whales and more inhabit. Check the box when you sign-on to keep informed! SeaTurtles.org sees a better future where our ocean ecosystems are restored to balance and sustainability. Our staff is just one piece of the puzzle. Our work is buoyed by thousands of supporters, volunteers and pro bono professionals, who help us extend our network around the globe. Join us today, and share our hope for a sustainable future.
image credit: Coco Inkwells Farrar – credit to Susan Farrar/spawnusa.org