The Marin Resource Conservation District passed another milestone in its efforts to help local ranchers reduce runoff of sediment and pathogens into Tomales Bay: the completion of its third Conserving our Watersheds program, or COW III. Working with six local ranches, the R.C.D. restored and fenced off a total of four miles of eroded creek beds, planted native grasses and over 1,000 native shrubs and trees and helped develop five alternative water sources, all with a focus on the Walker Creek and Keys Creek areas. “This was a team effort,” said Nancy Scolari, the district’s executive director. “Starting with a grant from the Regional Water Quality Control Board and the commitments of the local ranchers, we were able to get support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Marin County’s Measure A sales tax funds, MALT and the school kids participating in Point Blue’s STRAW program.” In all, over $1.1 million was raised for COW III.
The program has now managed and funded $2.3 million of conservation projects on 27 ranches, resulting in a considerable reduction in pathogens, sediment and nutrient loading of Tomales Bay, an Environmental Protection Agency-designated impaired water body. And even as the COW III projects were being completed, the next two phases moved forward, each initially supported with $600,000 matching grants from state water quality agencies. Already 10 new projects are being planned for this summer. “My hat goes off to the staff and to the ranchers who have stepped up to this challenge, and to the agencies that have provided funding,” said Sally Gale, president of the R.C.D.’s board of directors. “We’re on a roll improving local water quality and protecting wildlife habitat.”