County of Marin Sued for Failing to Protect Critically Endangered Salmon Species

County of Marin Sued for Failing to Protect Critically Endangered Salmon Species

The county’s failure to adopt a streamside conservation ordinance to preserve vegetation, maintain water quality and prevent erosion will impact populations of endangered Coho salmon and threatened steelhead trout, a violation of the California Environmental Quality Act.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 26, 2019

Contacts:        
Todd Steiner, SPAWN, (415) 488-7652, tsteiner@seaturtles.org
Preston Brown, SPAWN, (303) 877-0880, preston@seaturtles.org
Peter Broderick, Center for Biological Diversity, (971) 717-6421, pbroderick@biologialdiversity.org

 County of Marin Sued for Failing to Protect Critically Endangered Salmon Species

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. — The Salmon Protection And Watershed Network (SPAWN) and The Center for Biological Diversity sued the County of Marin today for failing to protect Central California Coast Coho salmon, a critically endangered species that faces extinction.

The county’s failure to adopt a streamside conservation ordinance to preserve vegetation, maintain water quality and prevent erosion will impact populations of endangered Coho salmon and threatened steelhead trout, a violation of the California Environmental Quality Act.

The county originally planned to adopt such an ordinance in 2007 when it last updated its Countywide Plan. But 12 years later, the measure has still not materialized.

“The County continues to neglect its duty to protect this species by failing to pass a science-based, common-sense streamside protection ordinance,” said Todd Steiner, biologist and SPAWN’s executive director. “Despite providing indisputable scientific data and testifying at public hearings, we’re left once again with the last-resort option of taking them back to court. We call on lawmakers to take speedy and decisive action to protect the critical habitat endangered Coho need to survive, so we can redirect our resources to restoration instead of litigation.”

Coho salmon in the Central California Coast have declined more than 95 percent from historic population levels, and are protected as an endangered species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and the California Endangered Species Act.

The San Geronimo watershed, located in western Marin County, contains critically important, un-dammed habitat for these imperiled species, yet the county proposes to allow further incremental development in stream zones that will allow for cumulatively significant degradation of habitat along streams used by Coho and steelhead for spawning and for migrating to and from the Pacific Ocean.

The species is also one of eight listed by the National Marine Fisheries Service as a recovery priority #1 species, or one whose extinction is almost certain in the immediate future because of rapid population decline or habitat destruction.

“The most critical time for the survival and recovery of the Coho is when they emerge from their nests, known as redds, in streams and have to survive as tiny fish through turbulent and intense storms. The lack of a common-sense ordinance has allowed riparian habitat to continuously be damaged and degraded. These habitats will not be able to support Coho into the future if these activities are allowed to continue,” said Preston Brown, SPAWN’s director of watershed conservation.

SPAWN filed a lawsuit in 2014 challenging the adequacy of the environmental analysis conducted for the countywide plan, approved in 2007. In August, the county approved an environmental impact report that falsely claims that such further incremental impacts will be less than significant based on proposed future mitigation measures.

The lawsuit was filed by SPAWN, the Center for Biological Diversity and Sanford Environmental Law Clinic in Marin County Superior Court. The petitioners are represented by attorneys at the Sanford Environmental Law Clinic and the Law Offices of Michael W. Graf.

“Even with these Coho salmon on the brink of extinction, Marin County refuses to take simple steps to protect these fish and the clean water they need to survive,” said Peter J. Broderick, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “As the last remaining undammed watershed in the county, San Geronimo offers especially valuable habitat. County officials have no excuse for not doing more to safeguard this crucial Coho habitat from impacts from development.”

The Salmon Protection And Watershed Network (SPAWN), is a program of national marine conservation nonprofit Turtle Island Restoration Network. SPAWN protects endangered, wild Coho salmon and the forests and watersheds they need to survive in West Marin County, California.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

For photos and videos of Coho salmon and habitat restoration, please see SPAWN’s Media Kit.

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