Stream Conservation Area Ordinance


Court Action Scuttles Countywide Plan But Creek Work Program Moving Ahead

March 11, 2014

A state appellate court on March 5, 2014, ruled that Marin County failed to adequately analyze the cumulative impacts of future development in the San Geronimo Valley on salmon habitat in the environmental impact report for the 2007 Countywide Plan.

The ruling is the latest twist in several years of legal struggles over protection of salmonid habitat in the San Geronimo Valley.

The appellate court ruling was on an appeal by Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN) of a Marin Superior Court decision on a lawsuit filed by the group in 2010. SPAWN challenged the sufficiency of the 2007 countywide plan EIR, and in 2011 further challenged the county for its failure to adopt a stream conservation area (SCA) ordinance within the timeframe stated in the 2007 plan. The appellate court reversed the lower court’s decision on the sufficiency of the EIR with a strong rebuke and directed the county to set aside its approval of the 2007 countywide plan and EIR, pending preparation of a supplemental EIR that analyzes the cumulative impacts. The appellate ruling also found the mitigation measures in the 2007 Plan and EIR to be insufficient, in that they were not obligatory.

It was not immediately clear if suspension of the countywide plan applied to the entire unincorporated county or solely to the San Geronimo Valley.  In the meantime, if the 2007 countywide plan is temporarily set aside, similar policies in the previous 1994 Plan will apply to unincorporated areas.

In a counter appeal by the county in the same ruling, the appellate court supported the county and found that a temporary injunction on development in San Geronimo Valley, pending completion of a Stream Conservation Area ordinance, was improperly imposed.

Regardless of actions the appellate ruling sets in motion to revise the EIR or the countywide plan, a program to strengthen the county’s watershed planning and improvement remains in effect. The watershed program was approved last fall in conjunction with the Stream Conservation Area ordinance that is currently in limbo.

The work program will include a review of current science, policies, and recommended management practices for ephemeral streams, and a new staff position to assist owners of creek properties to make property improvements in ways that also improve creek habitat.  To date the county has contracted for a two-year full-time staff position for this work program. MCL looks forward to working with county staff to implement this program which has the potential to improve stream habitat and gain greater cooperation in working with homeowners.

Documents and Correspondence

October 24, 2013 - Letter to Marin County Board of Supervisors in support of adoption of interim countywide SCA Ordinance
October 1, 2013 - Letter to Marin County Board of Supervisors in support of SCA Staff Report and proposed work program

August 19, 2013 - Letter to Marin County Board of Supervisors in support of the Stream Conservation Area ordinance
June 14, 2013 - Letter to Marin County Board of Supervisors regarding the SCA ordinance

May 9, 2013 - MCL letter to Marin County Planning Commission regarding the SCA ordinance

April 1, 2013 - MCL Letter to Marin County Planning Commission regarding the SCA ordinance









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