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
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
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