707-769-2008   *  SONOMA COUNTY   *   CA   *  94951



© North Coast Regional Water Control Board

The Mark West Springs area of Sonoma County is regarded as "water scarce." Over population, over development, over pumping have simply over loaded this fragile spot. The pretty little creek that runs through this area, Mark West Creeek, is the traditional habitat of steelhead trout, but maybe not for long.

Laura Waldbaum tells us why.




Sonoma County authorities have shown little concern for the laws enacted to protect its natural treasures. The Mark West Creek runs through one of the few remaining pristine native areas left in northeast Sonoma County. This land is covered by Oak, Madrone, Redwood and Fir forests. The creek, nestled in the bottom of the canyon, is one of only a few tributaries of the Russian River that still supports a healthy population of endangered steelhead trout.

These amazing fish, against all odds, make the fantastic journey from the ocean to the creek and back, following the creek through the city of Larkfield under Highway 101 past the airport to this special area. At the headwaters of the creek conditions have been perfect for spawning. Young fish hatched here live for 1 to 3 years before growing large enough to make the trip to the ocean. Many long-time residents can remember that Sonoma County’s creeks used to be full of fish. They have happy childhood memories of fishing on creeks now dried up, or funneled through concrete channels. The march of “progress” has taken a toll and its latest victim is the Mark West Creek.

The water level of the Mark West Creek is dropping rapidly. Residential development and vineyard expansions are using enormous amounts of ground water, depleting the springs that feed the creek. As the water level drops, the temperature increases in the pools that house young steelhead. They are more susceptible to disease and the efforts of their predators. At the rate the level is currently dropping there will be no surviving steelhead trout in the creek.

Sonoma County is not interested in any efforts to evaluate the effects of the increasing use of water on the creek and in fact has just approved a subdivision of 29 mansions with granny units and private vineyards in an area bisected by 3 branches of the creek. According to information supplied by U.C. Davis just one grape vine uses 3 to 5 gallons of water EVERY DAY. One can only imagine what this will do to the already dangerously low water level of the creek. This situation combined with the siltation caused by major grading in close proximity to the watershed spells disaster for the fish.

A small group of concerned citizens has hired an attorney and have been fighting to force the County Supervisors to follow the law and require a new Environmental Impact Report on this development, taking into account current conditions and regulations. It is a costly and frustrating battle.

Anyone interested in this issue is urged to contact Laura Waldbaum (RWaldbaum @aol.com), or Casey Caplinger (707) 537-8924




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