Watershed council out of dormancy


Members of the Tomales Bay Watershed Council, which has been largely dormant for the past five years, have revived the organization with a new operating structure. 

The council, founded in 1999 and originally focused on writing guidance documents for stakeholder agencies, lost funding for its coordinator, Neysa King, in 2012. 

It didn’t meet until this summer, when 40 members gathered at the Red Barn to reconstitute and begin developing agendas for future activities. 

“In the past, we did more paper projects,” said Tom Gaman, the council’s chair. “That was a huge part of what the council did in its early days.” The council completed a stewardship plan in 2003 and an integrated coastal watershed management plan in 2007. 

During the five-year hiatus, it also continued its water quality monitoring program, wherein monthly water samples are gathered across 14 locations. 

“We have a lot of people in the community who want data trends in the water, and that’s the role we’ve been primarily playing,” Mr. Gaman said. 

Now the council has created a 501(c)(3) nonprofit to undertake the projects designated by the council, a body of experts, stakeholders and business owners. The council has established a working relationship with the University of California, Berkeley to collaborate on research in the bay, and is in the process of restoring a contaminated wetland behind Chicken Ranch Beach in Inverness. 

For the Chicken Ranch project, the council partnered with neighboring landowners, Marin County Parks, the California Coastal Conservancy, the State Lands Commission, Supervisor Dennis Rodoni and the Inverness Foundation. It is currently preparing for a California Environmental Quality Act review. “We want to eliminate contamination that’s flowing onto Chicken Ranch Beach from an unknown source upstream,” Mr. Gaman said. “The county has done some work and concluded that it’s not coming from somebody’s leaking septic system.” 

To begin developing other projects, the council has five new committees, including one that focuses on education and outreach and another on water quality monitoring. 

A smaller project the foundation recently completed was the installation of six new road signs welcoming drivers into the Tomales Bay watershed. Mr. Gaman said Stan Gillmar, the former council chair who passed away last year, left a bequest to fund the signs.

“This was one of his dreams,” Mr. Gaman said. “Stan was an understated type of person, so that would sort of reflect his sentiment of how to educate people.” 


Anyone wishing to become involved in the council can contact Tom Gaman at info@tomalesbaywatershed.org.