County will sit on Chicken Ranch 

David Briggs
Channel B at Chicken Ranch Beach in Inverness is plagued by water quality problems.

Restoration plans for a popular section of beach on Tomales Bay don’t appear to be in the cards in the near future, but the proposal to recreate a floodplain and wetlands system at Chicken Ranch Beach has garnered two different price tags.

Tomales Bay Watershed Council in May sent a proposal to restore a section of Third Valley Creek, which bisects the beach on the southern end, to the parks department and Board of Supervisors. The plan, developed with county involvement over eight years, addresses an intractable water quality problem that plagues Channel B. 

The strip of land often dries up during the summer but fills during storms and the rainy season; it also acts as an end point for much of the animal feces and waste in the nearby watershed. 

Neysa King, coordinator for the council, pegs the cost of the restoration at around $400,000. The satisfaction of CEQA requirements would cost another $150,000 to $200,000, she said. 

And although the California Coastal Conservancy has set aside $350,000 for the project, the organization won’t hold the funds beyond another year or two, and the county has to take the lead for the council to access the funding, Ms. King said. 

But the project is not a high priority for the county.

“The challenge that the county faces is, we have a pretty full plate of estuarine restoration, so it’s hard to kind of squeeze in more capacity,” said Supervisor Steve Kinsey, referring to restoration projects at Bolinas Lagoon and Redwood Creek.  

Linda Dahl, the director and general manager of Marin County Parks, said there is no money for the project, which she believes could cost up to $700,000—and that doesn’t include the expenses associated with an environmental review. 

Nor does she believe Channel B poses a health hazard. 

But Ms. King hopes the problem will be addressed sooner rather than later. “In terms of being responsible managers and stewards of the watershed, we know that there’s a chronic water quality problem there and do nothing about it is doing a disservice to public and to the watershed.” 

She added that the warm, shallow backwater of Channel B attracts young children who have to be shepherded away.

The last water quality test, on June 24, showed bacteria levels at the beach within state water standards. But recent storms temporarily filled Channel B, and testing found levels for all three types of bacteria tested exceeded state standards for water contact. (The channel is not technically considered a recreational area.)

Ms. King expressed hope that the plan could benefit from Measure A funding, which will allocate $6.5 million a year for nine years to a county program for protecting natural resources, parks, open space and natural lands

Ron Miska, deputy director of the parks department, said Measure A funding could be a possible source of partial funding in the future but noted that the upcoming year’s funding was already set.