Save Pescadero Marsh

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Dear Secretary Laird,

Please fix the management of Pescadero Marsh.

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Excerpted from Bay Nature magazine, September 2012.

About last year:

"This is really the first time that we have said that we're not going to sit back any longer and that's why we're going to try something," says NOAA's Patrick Rutten. "Those fish are listed under the Endangered Species Act, and they are very big, healthy fish."..

One reason this remedy has been slow in coming is that so many agencies are involved in management of the marsh, including the state parks department, state Department of Fish and Game, the local water district, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and NOAA.

Breaching lagoons is not something the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or NOAA generally advise &emdash; or would even allow when it comes to protected species. "We don't support of the breaching of lagoons," says Rutten, "since 45 percent of steelhead growth happens in those lagoons. But in this location under these circumstances, we're going to almost certainly see a fish kill [if the breach isn't carried out]."

How did the fish survive here over decades and centuries before? Well, "here" has changed quite a bit: "What we're seeing is probably a legacy of human intervention and management of that system," says Rutten. "They used to farm potatoes down there and they used to burn. There was a concession for rowboats. There's been a lot of leveeing. There's also a significant amount of legacy sediment from the Butano Creek watershed, from logging probably in the 1920s."

But CASE places the blame for the fish kills specifically on a restoration project implemented by the state parks department in the mid-1990s, and the group is pushing for the the federal courts to find the state parks liable for illegal take of protected steelhead, which might force more drastic measures to avoid future fish kills.

A fish kill is certain in 2013 if the lagoon is not breached. Ussually the sand bar does not build up till the Fall or Winter. This year there has been far little rain, and the sediment build up has been worse because State Parks has not cleared any of the past build up.