SPAWN can continue Roy's Pools project, judge rules

08/05/2020

A judge rejected a petition last week by golfers and valley residents to halt creek restoration work underway on the former San Geronimo Golf Course. The petition, which attempted to freeze county-issued permits for the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network to re-engineer a portion of San Geronimo Creek, was part of a lawsuit against the golf course property’s owners, the Trust for Public Land, and Marin County. The 10 petitioners, called the San Geronimo Heritage Alliance, argued that the trust violated land-use codes by altering the use of the property without a permit to do so, and that the county has failed to enforce applicable laws. The alliance also claims that the property has become a public nuisance, devaluing neighboring properties. “Through its acts and omissions, T.P.L. also has allowed the property to become a vacant and unsightly wasteland, overrun with noxious weeds and vermin,” the lawsuit states. “T.P.L.’s replacement and alteration of the property have been injurious to the community’s health and safety, have been offensive to its senses, and have interfered with its comfortable enjoyment of life and property.” The lawsuit follows the rejection in June by the Board of Supervisors of an appeal of the creek permit. Judge Andrew Sweet will hear arguments on the lawsuit in the coming months, but for now, he found that a stay of the permit would hamper a project that is in the public’s interest. SPAWN is moving forward with construction. Next week, heavy equipment will be brought in to dismantle a series of pools, called Roy’s Pools, that were built to help fish bypass a former dam. Composed of metal sheet piles, concrete and large boulders, the pools inadvertently trap young fish, and removing them is the highest-priority project in the watershed for improving coho salmon habitat, said Todd Steiner, the executive director of SPAWN. “We are happy and grateful that the judge summarily rejected this latest unscientific and legally questionable attempt to prevent one of the most important salmon recovery restoration projects in California from happening,” he said. The Roy’s Pools project was conceived in 2012, well before golf ceased operating on the land, but it was expanded in scope last year absent a golf course operator. The more than $2 million construction project involves re-grading the channel, creating a floodplain and replacing an existing wooden bridge with a 78-foot steel bridge. The work must be done in late summer, after nesting season and before the first rain. Fifty-one protected trees and seven heritage trees are being removed and will be replaced with thousands of native plants and trees. The Trust for Public Land is not involved in the project beyond allowing SPAWN to work on the land. Following outreach to the community last spring, the trust will release later this month a document that outlines its vision for the 157-acre property.