A sought-after toilet seat (Point Reyes Light, 03.05.2009)

•March 6, 2009 • 1 Comment

copy-of-_mg_5361Colin Woolley left Bolinas on Saturday to camp in the Sonoran Desert. But before he left, he was charged with a mission—to secure a toilet seat.

“WANTED: A toilet seat!” announced a flier the 26-year-old field biologist posted on the bulletin board outside the Bolinas Market. “I’m hoping to score a toilet seat before I go. If you have a spare lying around or know the whereabouts of any, I would love to have it for what I’m calling ‘Project Desert Commode.’ This toilet seat will get the use it deserves.” The poster was handwritten inside a pen and ink sketch of a toilet seat.

Colin is joining a small team of Point Reyes Bird Observatory (PRBO) scientists studying birds in Arizona for the next few months. He is originally from Portland, Oregon, and has worked with PRBO for five years. He spent the past three months surveying mostly sparrows and warblers on Point Reyes.

In Arizona, the team will need to build a toilet. “What I imagine is a wooden, short structure with a seat on top and a bucket,” Colin said. “My task was to track down a seat.” And someone was charged with finding a bucket? “Presumably,” he answered.

“It seemed like something silly to buy, because I figured there must be so many out there,” Colin added. “Someone who goes beachcombing might find a cool one that came from a ship and be willing to part with it.”

He tacked up the fliers—the original one outside the market and a black and white copy in the post office—last Tuesday. “It was a shot in the dark. I was hoping to get lucky.”

The poster shared a thumbtack with a packet of fliers for vegrev.com and hung to the right of a brochure for Stockstill House Assisted Living. Above it was a sheet of paper that asked: “Want to help me pay my rent?” A colorful etching on the frame of the bulletin board made it known that: “Every man, woman and child in this village may enjoy, share and be responsible for this board.”

No rules govern what goes up on the Wharf Road bulletin board or the one inside the health food store. The post office’s board does have policies, however. “But no one ever asks. They just put them up,” said postmistress Sharon Mantle. “I take them down if they slander someone. It’s no place to describe a gripe.”

The day before he left, Colin’s fliers were lying on the floor outside the market and missing from the post office board. No one had responded, but he secured a seat by other means.

“My friend won it as a prize from a costume party,” Colin said. It was a Golden-crowned Sparrow party—where everyone dressed up as the titular bird to celebrate its arrival on Point Reyes for the winter. “He dressed up as a Ruby-crowned Kinglet.”

Colin’s friend’s wife made the executive decision that her husband no longer needed the toilet seat, and she gave it to Colin. “It was sitting on his desk by his computer, under some datasheets,” he said.

It was only the seat—white with rusty screws and broken hinges and the top rim was worn down. Colin found a lid in a tool shed at work. “It fits,” he said, putting the two pieces together, opening and closing them. “It probably went with it.”


Carbon emissions from cows are quadruple the emissions from cars traveling in the seashore, park service says (Point Reyes Light, 02.19.2009)

•February 19, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Cow contemplating the meaning of lifeThe Point Reyes National Seashore is preparing a greenhouse gas reduction plan, and the data it is using show that the overwhelming majority of carbon emissions come from cows.

Cattle, vehicle transportation within park boundaries, PG&E bills and waste within the park were the only sources calculated in the last four years; emissions from wildlife or transportation to and from the park were excluded.

The park began to calculate its carbon emissions profile in 2005. Three years later, it joined the Climate Friendly Parks Network; the Point Reyes Climate Friendly Parks Action Plan is expected to be completed this spring. The plan will call for a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent from 2005 levels within three years.

Emission profile

In 2005, Point Reyes National Seashore (PRNS) emitted 7,663 metric tons of carbon equivalent. Emissions from livestock management was 5,968 metric tons—or about three-quarters of that total.

The second largest source of carbon emissions come from transportation—which is usually the largest source of emissions in other Climate Friendly Parks—and the rest of the carbon came from energy use from park operations and waste disposal.

After the park collected information, it plugged those numbers into CLIP Tools—an excel spreadsheet inventory program developed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that calculates the emissions using complicated algorithms and formulas to provide the metric tons of carbon emitted by sources such as cows and cars.

Numeric answers are inserted intothe blank spaces, much like an itemized deductions spreadsheet for doing taxes online. What is the vehicle’s make and model and how often is it driven? How many light bulbs are there in the park?

“It seems anal retentive, but someone has that number somewhere,” said Julie Thomas McNamee, air quality and climate change Washington DC liaison for the National Parks Service (NPS).
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TASER comes to the coast (Point Reyes Light, 02.12.2009)

•February 16, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Photo by Eli Hamann

West Marin deputies just added a 7-ounce device to their belts—the Taser X26. The $800 electronic device has not yet been deployed on the coast, but elsewhere in the county, the tool has been pulled out of its holster a dozen times since it was introduced in November. Of those times, it has been discharged twice.

“It’s an alternative to more aggressive means,” said Marin County Sheriff’s Deputy Ron Fode. “What would you rather have, a baton breaking your bones or a Taser stunning you?”

Fode’s belt weighs over 30 pounds. From right to left, he carries a baton, pepper spray, gun, handcuffs, keys, two bullet magazines, Taser, flashlight and radio.

“It’s an excellent less lethal force option for our department,” said Sergeant Jesse Klinge, the Taser coordinator for the Marin County Sheriffs Office (MCSO). “Its use dramatically reduces injuries to suspects and officers.”

According to the MSCO, the Taser has about the same level of force as the baton. Verbal commands, control holds, strikes, pepper spray—in that order—rank lower on the force spectrum. Above the Taser and baton are beanbag shotguns and the firearm.

The sheriff’s department is one of the last agencies in the county to begin carrying the Taser. Sheriff Robert Doyle waited until he was assured by the statistics and medical research, according to Klinge.

“Numerous studies say it’s not supposed to affect the heart,” Klinge said. “There are some people out there who, due to their meth habit or something else they do, make their heart susceptible, and if we were trying to arrest them, it wouldn’t matter if it was the Taser or the ground or pepper spray—something could happen.”

The Taser affects the motor and sensory functions of the nervous system, incapacitating the suspect. The electrical pulses sent into the body prevent muscle control and coordination.

“They can’t fight you,” Klinge said. “It gives us the opportunity to handcuff them.” According to TASER International Inc., the subject should recover immediately.

The X26 has a replaceable cartridge that deploys two small probes attached to the Taser by insulated wires—the cartridges deputies carry can shoot up to 25 feet. When the safety is turned off, a red light beams onto the target. When the trigger is pulled, the probe on top shoots straight towards the red light, while the probe on the bottom curves down. The further away the target is, the more spread out the probes are.

Each dart-like probe can penetrate one inch of clothing, and they shock on contact for five seconds. The trigger needs to be pulled again if the deputy needs to stun the suspect for an additional five seconds. Later on, emergency personnel must remove the probes from the suspect.

The X26 is also equipped with a “Taser-cam”—which records audio and video once the safety is turned off.

Deputies were required to attend a comprehensive 8-hour training before they were certified to use the new tool. Seven out of eight of West Marin’s deputies were all certified between November and December. They also chose from three different styles of holsters.

In addition to a powerpoint presentation and policy review, the training included hands-on Taser familiarization exercises in which deputies used paper silhouettes to target shoot. “It doesn’t really feel like anything when you pull the trigger. There’s no recoil,” Fode said.

Like all certified patrol deputies, Fode keeps his Taser on the opposite side of his firearm. Both the yellow handle of his Taser and the black firearm point to the right.

“We really work on muscle memory—taking it in and out of the holster,” Klinge said. “When you do a certain task the same way for a while, you build that memory so you avoid the confusion of grabbing the wrong thing.”

During training, 44 deputies in total volunteered to be stunned by certified instructors over the course of several classes.

“They were totally incapacitated,” said Klinge, who is one of the eight instructors in the sheriff’s office. “There was nothing they could do.” To prevent them from falling to the ground, deputies on either side of them set the volunteers on the ground. The impact site is small, sometimes with slight bleeding.

In fourth grade, Fode was electrocuted when he touched a livewire while he was on a raft. “I have no fond recollection of electricity,” he said. “I know what it is, I don’t need to experience it to know what it does.”

There were three things that the deputies were trained to avoid: shocking a person who is in an elevated position and can’t brace their fall, deploying near anything that is flammable and ignitable or stunning anyone in a body of water. “You don’t want to shock someone when they’re on the roof or a ladder, or on a boat where they could fall into the water or riding a speeding motorcycle,” Fode said.

Every deputy who took the training passed the written test and was certified.

“We always want to take people into custody using the least amount of force possible,” Klinge said. “It’s proven to be effective, but since we just implemented the program, it’s tough to say it’s a resounding ‘Yes, it is not dangerous.’”

Last Friday, I rode shotgun with Fode while he patrolled the route between Olema and the Sonoma County line. Around 5 p.m., south of Marshall, Fode saw a car near the water where parking isn’t allowed. A woman was sitting in the passenger seat, and a man was standing next to her, behind an open passenger door. Fode walked up to the car, turning on his radio.

He checked their licenses to make sure there were no warrants on them, and then he advised them of their trespass.

“I always have to think, officer safety, officer safety. They know who I am, but I don’t know what they’re about,” Fode said afterwards. “The car door was open and maybe he’s holding a knife or a gun. Before the Taser, the only option in that case would be to use the gun.”

“It’s really changing law enforcement,” Klinge said.

“Things have come a long ways,” Fode added.

Park remakes Greenpicker (Point Reyes Light, 02.05.2009)

•February 8, 2009 • Leave a Comment
Photo by Eli Hamann

Photo by Eli Hamann

One day last November, hikers in the Point Reyes National Seashore noticed freshly sawed tree trunks and an orange Kubota backhoe. The trail had been dug up, and prints of the metal track wheels were visible on the loosened dirt. They alerted a local environmental group, which wrote a letter to the park.

Over the winter, an old logging road that was part of Greenpicker Trail was torn up and the trail was partially rerouted. Greenpicker starts at the end of Stewart Trail, which is about a mile from Five Brooks Ranch. It is a designated wilderness, but despite prohibitions to operate heavy machinery in such areas, park staff determined that the long-term benefits of removing the road justified the short-term disturbance. The backhoe work is complete and the trail should be reopened this spring.

“It’s a great project that has tremendous long-term benefits with some short-term impacts,” said Don Neubacher, superintendent of Point Reyes National Seashore (PRNS). “We’re trying to increase the wilderness character of the landscape.”

Greenpicker Trail is made up of dense second-growth Douglas fir stands. Slightly over a half-mile of it suffered from unsafe conditions and severe erosion due to poor road design. The logging road, which formerly served Sweet Lumber Mill, was cut into a steep stream drainage on the Inverness Ridge. As a result, water had cut ruts and gullies into it.

Several years ago, PRNS approved a plan for Greenpicker. The project, which cost over $87,000, aimed to protect habitat and provide safe access for park visitors. The new design slopes outward so water flows off the trail instead of being trapped.

“By arresting the unnatural erosion from the former logging road and developing a sustainable wilderness trail profile we protected the wilderness as a whole and allowed for safe continued use for future generations,” said John Dell’Osso, a spokesperson for PRNS.

Since Greenpicker is within a wilderness area, the park must comply with the “minimum requirement” mandated by the Wilderness Act. According to the act, motorized equipment may only be used to achieve the purposes of wilderness character preservation or in emergency situations; if significant impact is unavoidable, localized and short-term adverse impacts are acceptable.

PRNS staff decided there were three options for Greenpicker: close the trail, use only hand tools to stabilize erosion problems or tear out the eroding section of road using heavy machinery. Closing the trail would have meant detouring hikers to Stewart Trail, which is shared with horses, bikes and park vehicles. Hand tools could have been used to fill eroded parts of the trail with rocks, but this would have required annual upkeep.

“There’s no way to use hand tools to correct these problems,” Neubacher said. “It needed some major rehabilitation.” But others questioned the decision.

“For the most part, motorized equipment is mostly antithetical to wilderness areas,” said Fred Smith, executive director of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin. Fred wrote a letter to Neubacher after learning of the project in January. “I wanted to ensure they followed the proper procedures to make their decision.” In the end, he believes they did.

A hydrologist, plant ecologist, research biologist and historian were consulted, and their lists of potential disturbances were addressed. Some trees that could not be transplanted were cut and some noise was unavoidable. The area was surveyed for three rare or threatened species—redlegged frogs, Spotted Owls and California bottlebrush grass—and only Spotted Owls were found. Incidentally, the owls have benefited from the trimmed trees where lower branches use to impair their hunt for dusky-footed wood rats.

The work was completed in December. From here on out, workers—including Adopt-a-Trail volunteers who have maintained sections of the trail since 1992—can go in with hand tools.

“National parks have conflicting mandates—on one hand, they protect natural resources and on the other hand, they must satisfy public access and visitor enjoyment,” Smith said. “Satisfying both these interests is basically impossible. I think the end result of this project will likely be beneficial. My only question is: was this the best way to do it?”

Last week, the low-hanging branches of Douglas firs were piled among uprooted tree stumps and lichen-covered bark on either side of Greenpicker. The trail is now about six feet across and covered by compacted rocks.

“Give it a little time to heal. We don’t want it disturbed until it is stabilized. We want to let it rest,” Neubacher said. “When it opens, it will be better than ever.”

MMWD’s desal plan (Point Reyes Light, 02.05.2009)

•February 8, 2009 • 1 Comment

The gap between supply and demand for customers of the Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD) is expected to double in the next 15 years. In order to meet the needs of nearly 200,000 people, the district is considering desalinating water from the San Francisco Bay, an expensive but reliable alternative to increasing its supply from the Russian River.

“MMWD would not have adequate water supply to meet the needs of people and the environment during a sustained drought,” said MMWD General Manager Paul Helliker. “Even with the additional supplies developed and this mandatory ration, MMWD reservoirs would run out of water in the second year of a severe drought.”

The staff thinks desalination is a viable supplemental water supply especially in drought and emergency conditions, while others think the monetary and energy costs of a desalination plant may outweigh the benefits. The final environmental impact report for the desalination project was unanimously certified by the MMWD Board of Directors during a meeting on Wednesday.

MMWD, which serves south and central Marin County including the San Geronimo Valley, is also considering reservoir improvements, increased water recycling and conservation and additional Russian River supplies. The desalination plant could cost three times as much as the other alternatives and would take at least three to five years to implement.

According to MMWD’s records, which date back to 1879, January 2009 is the fifth driest January on record with only 1.08 inches of rain. These conditions might only worsen, and a long term water supply must be secured now.

The proposed desalination plant will take raw seawater from the San Francisco Bay and subject it to a series of treatments to produce drinkable water, a technology already being used in other parts of the country. There are two desalination proposals contained in the final environmental impact report, each with its own cost and timeline.

The 1-million-gallon-per-day (MGD) facility would supply water to San Quentin. It would supply 1,000 acre feet per year beginning 2013, and it would cost $3,600 per acre foot. A 5 MGD facility would supply water for all MMWD customers. This would supply 3,300 acre feet per year beginning in 2014, and this would cost $3,600 per acre foot.

MMWD’s proposed desalination facility would be constructed on Pelican Way, near the Home Depot in San Rafael. The plant will take saltwater from the San Francisco Bay through an intake pipe built at the end of a fishing pier owned by Marin Rod and Gun Club near the base of the Richmond Bridge.

The saltwater would be pre-treated to remove solids and then desalinated through a process called reverse osmosis—removing the freshwater from saltwater using pressure to push saltwater through a semi-permeable membrane to leave behind salt and contaminants. The brine waste would be disposed through an existing pipeline. The desalted water would then be post-treated to make it taste like the water that the district currently provides.

In 2005, MMWD operated a pilot desalination plant to test the viability of the desalinated water.

“We tested the technology, the environmental impacts and the drinking water quality,” said Libby Pischel of MMWD. “And they all proved to be viable.”

Technical staff who tasted the water from the pilot plant found it to be as tasteless as distilled water. “It had no flavor,” Pischel said, explaining that the desalination process removes everything that gives water its taste. So MMWD added minerals—sodium hypochlorite, ammonium chloride, calcium chloride and sodium carbonate—to make the water taste like the drinking water that the district currently provides. Blind taste tests were conducted during open houses for the district. “More often than not, people preferred the desalinated water—well more than half,” Pischel added.

MMWD used information learned from the Tampa Bay Seawater Desalination Plant, the nation’s largest plant of its kind, which was constructed in 2001 and has been fully operational since 2007 as a drought-proof alternative water supply. The plant can provide up to 10 percent of Tampa Bay’s water supply, providing up to 25 million gallons per day of drinkable water.

At present, MMWD gets 79 percent of its water from seven reservoirs—including Nicasio and Soulajule in West Marin—19 percent from the Russian River and 1 percent from recycling water. Together, these sources supply 40,400 acre feet of water per year. One acre foot can serve three families for one year.

Since 2007, MMWD has received more than 750 comments from governmental agencies, regional organizations and individuals on topics such as conservation programs, rainwater catchments, gray water use, energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, water quality, oil spills, impacts to aquatic habitat and encroachment permitting.

The 5 MGD plant would require 10,037,500 kilowatt hours a year. Californians can spend about 300,000 million kilowatt hours a year.

“If the requirement of energy is a huge environmental impact on this project, from what real sources can this energy be obtained and at what actual cost to the rate payers?” asked Sue Brown, a resident of Ross Valley.

Because of the high cost and energy requirements of desalination, other options are being considered. Increasing the supply from the Russian River is the least expensive of these, costing between $1,200 and $1,600. This option could be completed as early as 2011.

With the coordination of North Marin Water District and Caltrans, a North Marin pipeline could be enlarged along the Marin-Sonoma Narrows, and with the coordination of Sonoma County Water Agency, their pipeline could be improved. But the supply may be unreliable during drought years, and enlarging or improving the existing pipelines between Marin and the Russian River depends on environmental approval of other water districts.

MMWD currently uses up to two million gallons a day of recycled water for irrigation, toilet flushing, car washing and other non-agricultural purposes. Expanding the recycled water operation appears to be a simple system to implement, but environmental review and permitting for that option has not been completed.

MMWD has already spent $44 million on a conservation program for extra staffing, rebates, incentives and a more aggressive conservation education, but MMWD staff believe that the gap between supply and demand may not be met by conservation alone. Water conservation, which has the least environmental impact of the options, necessarily relies on thousands of customers to changing their behavior.

“We pour in a lot of energy and money for these types of projects. If the emphasis is on conservation and changing the price schedule to encourage doing more with less, in the long run, you have a viable and sustainable strategy,” said Norman Solomon, an author on politics who is currently working on a project called Green New Deal in North Bay. “Usually the dreams of a ‘techno-fix’ haven’t worked out very well. Efforts to improve on nature end up being setbacks for nature and human beings.”

The board of will listen to public comments and vote on a long-term project at a special board meeting on February 11.

Water supply shrinking (Point Reyes Light, 01.29.2009)

•January 29, 2009 • Leave a Comment

As the Bolinas Community Public Utility District issued a water supply alert on Wednesday due to prolonged drought conditions, other districts in West Marin are keeping a close eye on water levels until the end of the rainy season. Depending on the amount of rainfall in the coming weeks, some will consider voluntary water conservation or even mandatory rationing.

The emergency in Bolinas comes at the start of a third consecutive drought year. The town, which has been in an ongoing water emergency since the 1970s, gets its limited supply from Arroyo Hondo Creek.  It has two emergency waterreservoirs, Woodrat I and II.

“Normally, at this time of the year, our emergency reservoir would be full,” said Jennifer Blackman of the Bolinas Community Public Utility District (BCPUD). “We’re at 38 percent of normal right now.”

If consumption continues at the current rate, the emergency water supply could be gone by the end of April. “Historically we’ve had a commendable response from the community when we ask for conservation,” Blackman said. “Now we must take one step more and ask for mandatory conservation, which, unfortunately, puts us in the position of rationing water.”

At last week’s regular board meeting, BCPUD staff suggested that mandatory conservation measures be imposed on customers on a per service connection basis. At a special meeting of the board on Wednesday, over 40 people gathered in the firehouse. “It’s about as dry as anyone has ever seen it,” said Bill Pierce, chief operator for the Bolinas sewer system.

The board approved the staff’s recommendations to limit water consumption to 150 gallons per service, with some exceptions for larger users such as the school. There are almost 600 water meters in the district, with about half already using less than the limit. A dozen or so downtown businesses, public institutions and multi-use buildings will be asked to make a percentage reduction rather than meet a gallon limit. People can confidentially approach the board for exceptions based on public health, sanitation, fire and safety concerns.

If customers adhere to their limits, the water in the reserves can last until December 1. Customers will be contacted about how much water they are consuming.  BCPUD staff plans to monitor water use and issue written warnings to customers who violate the amount of water. If necessary, the district could turn off water for repeat violators.

“If our projections of creek flow are overly optimistic, we will need to revise the ration allocation downward,” Blackman said. “We’re making an assumption that we hope is unduly pessimistic. A March miracle or late rain would be fabulous.”

Further north, Inverness is faring somewhat better. “We’re waiting to see if late winter rains will come,” said General Manager Kaaren Gann of the Inverness Public Utility District (IPUD). “If the rains don’t come in February, March and April, we may have to look at water conservation later on in the summer.”

Inverness’ water supply comes from catchment basins on the ridge. The basins are made of decomposed granite and act like a sponge for the water, releasing it into the small streams in the watershed.

“We have to look at stream flows to make sure that they’re sufficient to service our customers and provide adequate fire protection,” Gann said. Although stream flows are down right now, Gann said it’s a time of year when water isn’t used very much for fire protection and watering landscaping, since there is usually sufficient rain.

“What that all means is that we keep an eye on stream flow and how much water people are using,” Gann said, adding that the board can declare a water shortage emergency at any time. There are four-stages in an IPUD water shortage emergency. In the first stage, the district encourages customers to conserve water and prohibits nonessential uses of water, such as hosing building exteriors and refilling swimming pools. Stage two places restrictions on outdoor watering, and stage three prohibits outdoor watering at all times. During the final stage, the board of directors imposes mandatory water rationing.

Stinson Beach County Water District (SBCWD) will hold a board meeting on February 11 to discuss water supplies and decide whether or not to introduce any drought planning efforts. “What we’re thinking about is enacting a 50 percent water use reduction policy in response to the drought,” said the general manager, Ed Schmidt.

Fitzhenry, Black Rock, Stinson Gulch and Webb creeks supply surface water, while Alder Grove, Ranch and Highlands wells supply ground water to over 700 SBCWD accounts. A Stage I Alert is called when creek flow is 15 to 30 percent below normal, and SBCWD customers could be asked to voluntarily reduce water use. A Stage II Alert occurs when creek flows are between 30 to 50 percent below normal and customers could be asked to reduce watering garden areas by 50 percent—water can be saved with pressure reduction valves and by using mulch as a retainer. At Stage III, outside irrigation is prohibited and inside water use is reduced.

The North Marin Water District (NMWD) manages water for Point Reyes Station, Olema and Inverness Park. “In regard to West Marin, it has not yet been classified as a dry year,” said Chris DeGabriele of NMWD. “But it’s shaping up to become a dry year.”

A dry year classification could be made officially on April 1 if rainfall is measured less than 28 inches at Kent Lake, which is downstream from Lagunitas Creek. Currently, it’s at about half of that, DeGabriele said.

In dry years, the district’s alternate source comes from water rights on Giacomini Ranch amounting to 433,000 gallons per day. During summer months of dry years, that’s all the water NMWD has available. Should it declare a dry year, NMWD will ask customers to reduce water demand and voluntarily conserve until July 1. After that, there will be a mandatory cutback of 25 percent. “If we don’t stay below 433,000 gallons a day, that’ll require a further reduction,” DeGabriele said. “What we have found is that when we ask people to conserve, they typically do the right thing.”

Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD), which serves the San Geronimo Valley and Fairfax, will also consider water levels on April 1. “We’re holding our breath to see what the level of the reservoirs are at the end of the rainy season,” said Dan Carney, MMWD water conservation manager.

Most of the district’s water comes from its seven reservoirs—which include Nicasio and Soulajule in West Marin. Presently, the reservoir levels are at about 54 percent of capacity. The total capacity of the reservoir is 80,000 acre feet—one acre foot would be like a football field flooded with one foot of water, according to Paul Helliker, MMWD general manager.

Last week, the consumption average was about 17 million gallons per day, or about 95 gallons of water per person per day on average. The average consumption during summer months is about 30 to 40 million gallons a day. If the levels are still low after April 1, the district will ask for voluntary conservation of 10 percent. This has happened about once every ten years.

“You can meet 10 percent by cutting down on watering by one day a week or making sure that your washing machines and dish washers are full,” Helliker said. If water levels drop down to 40,000 acre feet by April 1, the district will implement a mandatory rationing program of 25 percent reduction. This usually means a 50 percent reduction for golf courses and a 30 percent reduction for households.

“People need to cut their watering by half, and we tell restaurants not to serve water,” Helliker said. “We need about 37 inches of rain in Lake Lagunitas, like last year. So far, it’s about 13 inches since July 1 of last year,” Helliker said. “Turn sprinklers off now.”

Ranchers win advocate for longer leases (Point Reyes Light, 01.15.2008)

•January 18, 2009 • Leave a Comment

img_3392The director of the National Parks Service has authorized the extension of ranch leases in the Point Reyes National Seashore from five to ten years. In a letter sent to the ranching community last week, United States Senator Dianne Feinstein wrote that Mary Bomar would also consider diversification plans and encourage better communication between ranchers and the park.

Though the specifics have not yet been worked out, for ranchers the move is a victory. The current 5-year leases make it difficult for the 26 dairies and beef ranches to obtain funding and plan for the long term.

“These families have been here for several generations. They have really deep reasons for wanting to feel secure,” said local historian Dewey Livingston.

Twenty percent of Marin’s agriculture happens in Point Reyes. “We desperately need to keep that alive,” said Jeff Creque, a range land ecologist. “Agriculture can be a positive force in ecosystem management. I think this is a very positive step. Hopefully it will be the first of many such steps.”

In 1962, President Kennedy signed legislation that created the national parks. In the Point Reyes National Seashore (PRNS), existing ranches were accommodated. “The plan was that agriculture would have a place in the park, but that has shifted over time,” said Laura Watt, a professor of environmental studies and planning at Sonoma State University. “Having the park service offer longer-term lease permits is a step back into that original direction.”

At first, Reservations of Use and Occupancy allowed the former owners to continue as if nothing had happened. “What they did was, in a sense, rent the ranches for a period of time, and the rent was deducted away from the purchase price,” Livingston said. Ranchers could stay for a fixed period of time—in PRNS, most ranchers chose 20 years and in Olema Valley, most ranchers chose 25 years. “Congress supported the economic and cultural reasons for not pushing them out of the park.”

When the reservation agreements started expiring in the 1990s, ranchers were given 5-year leases that were renewable up to a certain amount of time and were more restrictive than the previous agreements. “It makes it hard for anybody with capital to make improvements, get loans or feel like they can actually stay in business,” Livingston said. “Longer leases allow ranchers to have a sense of security and make profit in this business. Repairing infrastructure, improving herds or going organic are big expenses that are hard to do if you only have a couple years on your lease.”

In order to quality for certain grants for land improvement work, ten years of tenure are needed, disqualifying 5-year projects. “These ranchers want to be good stewards of the land, but that’s been made impossible for them with these short-term leases. They need the time to capitalize, but they can’t get the grants,” said Judy Teichman from Save the Future of Aqua/Agriculture in Rural Marin.

“Short-term leases made banks timid—it wasn’t enough time to get money back, especially with the ups and downs of the industry,” said Dominic Grossi, president of the Marin County Farm Bureau.

With such short-term leases, it was also difficult to make plans for transitions and successions. “When the kids who grew up on the ranches become adults, does it make sense for them to make a commitment to stay on the land with only a 5-year lease?” Teichman asked.

Teichman ran into Feinstein at the Sand Dollar Restaurant in Stinson Beach last fall. She mentioned her concerns, which stemmed from her childhood on a farm in the Midwest. Now in the Bay Area, Teichman was still sensitive to pressures on the agricultural community. “You can take the girl out of the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the girl.”

Feinstein and her aides met with several ranchers at the end of last year, gathered information and discussed it with Bomar. “We are most grateful to the senator. This is a huge state and we only have two U.S. senators,” said JoAnn Stewart of the Stewart Ranch. “She paid attention to an extremely small puddle.” The letter sent to ranchers last week was the result.

“The Special Use Permits which allow you to operate at Point Reyes need to be issued for longer periods of time than five years,” Feinstein wrote in the letter. “[Bomar] has provided the legal authority for Special Use Permits to be granted for ten years with the option of an additional five years. In addition, the Park Service will grant longer-term Permits when there is an additional need to secure and amortize a loan or receive grants for specific large-scale capital improvement.”

Ranchers’ abilities to expand their operations and infrastructure was limited by the fear that their lease could expire soon. “Now they can feel like they’re not on tenuous ground any longer, that they can do their business without worrying that the land will be pulled out from under them,” said Nancy Gates, a member of the Marin County Farm Bureau.

Stewart’s grandfather bought their property in Olema Valley in 1924. “After our agreement expired some time ago, we just kept renewing. This made us feel very vulnerable,” said Stewart. “With the feeling of impermanence, you wonder if it’s worthwhile doing anything.”

img_2372Now she is looking forward to planning longer-term projects. “With a lease and option total time of 15 years, we feel like it’s worthwhile to fix up buildings and do the things we should do,” Stewart said. She plans to get water to cattle under proper conditions in order to control erosion and decrease E. coli problems. “We badly wanted to do it, but because of the short lease, we haven’t,” Stewart said. And she hopes to add more cross fences in order to rotate cattle through the small pastures and do a lot more seeding of pastures.

When the park purchased the land, ranchers were allowed to continue their operations but not diversify. In recent years, some ranchers have wanted to diversify in order to supplement their income, but they were even unable to plant row crops if they were only permitted to raise cattle.

“I think it’s important that we are able to grow artichokes, raise chickens and hogs or whatever is necessary in order to stay financially solvent,” Stewart said.

Other than encouraging lease extension and diversification, Feinstein’s letter expresses the hope that ranchers and the park service will improve their communication. “The Director has mandated that local park officials begin regular meetings with ranchers and other interested parties in an effort to broaden lines of communication,” her letter read.

“What’s key is getting out of the mindset that agriculture and wilderness are oppositional,” Watt said. “We’ve made that split in our mind, and to me, this is an opportunity to start healing that split. Step out of the equal and opposite or mutually exclusive mindset and think about how we can protect resources and have natural places to visit while keeping that human connection as well.”

“Until Mary Bomar puts something into writing, we don’t know the specifics,” Grossi said. “There will always be people who want to expand wilderness and there will always be pressure on agriculture in that respect. Pressures will arise again, and we’ll continue to battle them.”

A partridge on Point Reyes (Point Reyes Light, 12.24.2008)

•December 28, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Great Blue Heron at Abbotts Lagoon

About 200 bird species were spotted during an annual Point Reyes bird count on Saturday. At least 180 amateur and profession birders participated in the 39th Point Reyes Peninsula Christmas Bird Count (PRPCBC), sponsored by Marin Audubon, Point Reyes Bird Observatory and Environmental Action Committee. The event was sponsored by the National Audubon Society, along with Christmas counts in over 2,000 areas across the country.

“This is the largest single census of a vertebrate population,” said Jon Winter, one of the original founders of the PRPCBC. “Nothing comes close to it in the history of the world.”

The count covers 31 localities in a 15-mile diameter circle—including most of the Point Reyes peninsula and extending east to Nicasio and Soulajule—centered at Heart’s Desire Beach in Tomales Bay. Two to 12 counters cover each area.

Area 23—which extends west to Abbotts Lagoon, east to the Historic M Ranch and south on Sir Francis Drake—was led by Mike Parmeter, a retired family practitioner who has birded in Abbotts Lagoon since 1977. When Mike was 12, his mother gave him Peterson’s Guide to Western Birds and let him take half-days off school to study birds.

It was 31 degrees when we met at the Abbotts Lagoon parking lot at 7:30 a.m. The sun began to rise, as we walked toward the water.

“We count every bird—sight and sound,” said Rigdon Currie, a mostly-retired venture capitalist in Inverness Park who has birded on every continent except Antarctica. Currie has joined in the PRPCBC since 1994 and has participated in over 50 CBCs in total. Like Mike, Rigdon earned a boy scout merit badge for bird study when he was 13. “We had to identify 20 bird species. I’ve picked up a few more since then,” said Rigdon, who’s seen over 3000 by now.

A slight frost covered most of the low grasses, the edges of the deer tracks and the rabbit droppings on the ground. At our first stop by the lagoon, several waterfowl swam around just above the surface—two Pied-billed Grebes, a few unidentified scaups, a Ring-necked Duck, Buffleheads and a few American Coots. We continued to circumnavigate the lagoon, while Wendy Dreskin kept a running tally on the species checklist.

By 8:10 a.m. we’d already seen 15 species, including a Cooper’s Hawk, a White-tailed Kite, one Wilson’s Snipe and six Yellow-rumped Warblers.

The Yellow-rumped Warbler was Mateo Delaroca’s 100th life bird—a bird species you see for the first time in real life. Mateo,10, got a high-five from fellow Marin Audubon Junior Birdwatcher Simon Crabill,10. Wendy promised to bake him a cake—a carrot cake, as he requested. Wendy is the founder of Junior Birdwatchers, now in its second year, with 60 members working towards their Junior Birdwatcher Certificate.

Just before 9 a.m. we walked westward, wading through neck-high swale. A Black Phoebe bobbed its tail up and down on the top of a marsh grass. The day was sunny and clear. As we crossed a bridge, Bob Ulvang of San Bruno called out to Wendy, “Twenty White-crowned Sparrows and a partridge in a pear tree.”

A cow in the distance began a duet with a hidden Song Sparrow, while a rabbit rustled in the ungrazed shrubbery. At the edge of a marsh, a Virginia Rail popped its head out of the reeds, ducked back in, popped its head out again and ducked back in. It called out loudly after the rest of the group crowded around the marsh edge. “Now you see me, now you don’t,” Rigdon said.

At the edge of the shore, four little Sanderlings bobbed their heads up and down like little oil rigs. Two Brown Pelicans flew overhead while a coyote jogged away from us in the distant sand dunes. With several scopes lined up facing the ocean, Team Area 23 took a lunch break. A gray whale spouted in the distance. A Snowy Plover scurried across the sand while one wave quickly followed another on the beach. Two dead birds—one grebe and the other unidentifiable, with only its pair of wings left—had washed up on the beach.

Around 12:45 p.m. we headed back. Three White Pelicans flew overhead. “Don’t look up with your mouth open,” Bob reminded us. Around 1:50 p.m., we arrived at a spot off Sir Francis Drake just north of M Ranch. A male and female hawk circled in the air while calling out loudly, apparently in a courtship display. Simon, who has over 200 life birds, saw a Pygmy Nuthatch for the first time.

While we were watching the ducks—diving ducks who pattered on the water before they took off and dabbling ducks who jumped straight into the air when they took off—a big red bull warned us with a deep, loud moo. As we turned around, two ravens were canoodling in a tree while above a bishop pine we saw a sundog—a rainbow ring around the sun.

Around 3 p.m. we came to a marshy strip on the side of the Sir Francis Drake, across from the road that leads to oyster farm. A Virginia Rail called from the cattails and a Sora called several minutes later, followed by yet another Virginia Rail call.

At our final spot for the area, Mike led us into a group of female cows that slowly retreated warily. A few meters away, a Great Blue Heron opened its wings and scared away a cow. A Hairy Woodpecker sat on a fencepost while we stopped to look at bobcat scat with a gopher tooth inside it.

By sunset, Team Area 23 had seen 98 species, including five Great Blue Herons, 17 Northern Flickers, 30 Western Grebes, 158 Brown Pelicans, 345 Ruddy Ducks, one Osprey, a Golden Eagle, a Marbled Murrelet, one Tree Swallow and two Rhinoceros Auklets.

Compilation dinner

Back at the Dance Palace, Pam Ferrari Catering served bleu cheese and walnut salad and cheese tortellini with marinara sauce, while David Wimpfheimer, who has been the PRPCBC compiler for the past 20 years, read through a list of over 200 bird species. As he read, the participants from the PRPCBC shouted “Yes” if they saw that bird in their area. This list always ranks in the top 10 of all CBCs in the country.

There was, however, no response after several of the birds on the list—Cattle Egret, Tundra Swan, Blue-winged Teal, Redhead, Long-tailed Duck, Black Rail, American Avocet, Ruddy Turnstone, Red knot, Jaegers, Loggerhead Shrike and Red Crossbill.

After the reading of the list, a representative from each of the 31 shared some of their experiences from the day.

One group saw 8,500 Buffleheads. In Inverness Park, there were 110 Anna’s Hummingbirds—at 10 hummingbird feeders.

David DeSante, president of Institute for Bird Populations, led Area 25, which includes North Beach. “We didn’t see a lot of the expected birds,” he said.

Rich Stallcup, a Point Reyes Bird Observatory naturalist, led the Olema Marsh trip. His group saw 98 species, including several add-ons to the list—Eastern Phoebe, Palm Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, a Red-naped Red-breasted Sapsucker hybrid and Hammond’s Flycatcher.

The unofficial tally was 200 species. “It just shows the tremendous diversity of habitat in West Marin,” said Tom Gaman, this year’s co-compiler. According to Jon, this is only the ninth time the PRPCBC has seen over 200 species.

A foil to hunting

Frank Chapman, an ornithologist with the American Museum of Natural History in New York, began the first CBC around 1900. “Hunters used to get together in the winter time and shoot everything in sight,” Jon said. “Then they threw the bodies into a pile. The one that shot the fewest had to buy booze for everyone else.”

“People used to shoot promiscuously,” Mike said. “So Chapman decided that his protest would be to go out and count birds.” Rigdon added, “It was intended to be a foil to hunting.”

The bird counts used to be called Christmas Sidehunts, and the CBC became a festive tradition. “The idea is basically conservation driven,” Jon said.

In the 1950s, there were two counts in West Marin—the Tomales Bay and Drakes Bay CBCs. Jon and Rich combined the two count circles and redrew the boundary.

CBCs around the country count between three to over 200 species of birds. “To get 200, you have to be on a coast and you have to be southern,” Jon said. The average count for PRPCBC is 195, with about 114,000 individuals.

The cumulative species total for the PRPCBC throughout the years stands

at 287.

The CBC monitors changes in bird populations over time, according to Wimpfheimer. But weather, skill level, effort and other factors make the use of CBC data unreliable for judging population trends.

“It is valid if you learn how to deal with the noise in the dataset; then you can find a trend,” Jon said.

With the CBC at 109 years old, there’s a long record on what kinds of birds there are. “With that kind of data built up over time, we’re able to see shifts in populations—changes in bird species that might be attributed to developing, silting and changes in agricultural practices said John Longstreth, co-compiler this year.

“Most of the area in the Point Reyes count is on public land, so the numbers will stay pretty much the same,” Jon said. “Except that the east side of the circle is getting developed, and we’ve seen

some decline.”

Numbers from the PRPCBC online at http://www.forestdata.com/cbc in January.

Feeders and baths sicken songbirds (Point Reyes Light, 12.18.2008)

•December 22, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Patient 4650

Songbirds throughout Marin County are dying from salmonella spread primarily through feeders and baths where they cluster.

Salmonellosis is a common cause of death in wild birds, and it is passed through saliva and feces. A bird with salmonella poisoning usually appears lethargic, puffed up and may have swollen eyelids. It may also be found resting with its bill tucked under its wing and will usually be the last bird to take flight when a flock is startled.

“The problem is, it’s very hard to treat them once they have it. Songbirds have such a high metabolism that infection just runs through them faster than you can do anything about,” said Paulette Smith-Ruiz, assistant director of animal care for WildCare, a wildlife rehabilitation hospital in San Rafael. “People think of salmonella as a gastrointestinal problem, like if you eat a bad egg or chicken. But little birds get it all over their bodies.”

Patient number 4650 is the sixteenth Salmonellosis patient at WildCare. He is an adult male pine siskin with yellow patches and olive green and black streaks. He was found in Mill Valley last Monday, and when he was brought into WildCare the next day, he was breathing heavily and the feathers around his face were ratty. He wasn’t flying, but he had no fractures or wounds. He was given anti-inflammatory medication for his swollen elbow, and he has lived in Incubator 4 ever since. He weighs 11 grams.

“He’s almost as small as the germ,” Smith-Ruiz said.

The disease invades birds’ respiratory systems, joints and all their internal organs. To give a small pine siskin the antibiotic Gentamicin, they need to use a nebulizer—which turns the liquid medication into a fine mist for the pine siskin to inhale.

A combination of 4.5 cc of sterile water and 0.50 cc of Gentamicin is placed into a small cup at the end of a tube. A machine is turned on that sends warmed air through the tube, vaporizing the medication before it becomes a mist. The mist is sprayed into the incubator where Patient 4650 is eating seeds and berries from a crème brulee ramekin.

“It’s like Viks in a vaporizer when you’re a kid,” Smith-Ruiz said. Patient 4650 breathes it in for at least 30 minutes. He hops, arduously, behind the pyracantha—or firethorn—branch with its red berries.

“It just needs to work its course through his body. Only a couple of them make it,” Smith-Ruiz said. “Any bird can get it, but pine siskins and gold finches seem most susceptible.

Salmonella isn’t seen as much in solitary birds who don’t crowd around feeders or in crows and gulls who are exposed to garbage and have built up immunity. “But the little seed eaters aren’t eating eggs or anything like that naturally, so if it hits their body, they have no immunity,” Smith-Ruiz said.

A reason why so many pine siskins are affected might be because they are eruptive breeders.

“They’ll have a big population explosion every few years,” said Jan Armstrong, communications manager for WildCare. “They don’t usually show up in this kind of number every year.”

Pine siskins are coastal migrators, and Marin County is located on a flyway. They stop along to rest and rehydrate themselves. “They see the feeders and the baths and think those are great places to eat and bathe,” Armstrong said.

“WildCare discourages feeding wildlife—it spreads disease, causes aggression and population aggregation when they should be spread out,” added Alison Hermance, webmaster for WildCare. “We recommend having native plants instead. But if people are going to have feeders, they need to be responsible and keep them clean.”

Intelligent Feeding Guidelines are endorsed by WildCare, Audubon Society and Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Bird feeders for seeds should be disinfected every two weeks by immersing them in bleach solution, nine parts water and one part bleach. Bird baths should be emptied out daily, scrubbed with bleach solution and dried before being refilled. People should wash their hands thoroughly afterwards, since humans and cats can contract salmonella. If sick or dead birds are found, immediately remove bird feeders and baths, disinfect and rehang them after at least one month.

“It’s not a kindness to put food out. Now the kindness is to take it away, at least for a while,” Armstrong said. “Nobody wants to serve bad eats over the holiday season.”

Seeds on the ground are a source on contamination as well, especially because fecal matter falls to the ground, according to Frances Weigel, a supervisor at WildCare.

Elaine Straub has found eight dead pine siskins by her home in Sea Haven near Inverness. “I don’t want to continue spreading it,” Straub said.

“A lot of us have bird baths and feeders,” said Barbara Meral, who also lives in Sea Haven. “My bird bath had mold and moss, but now I’m really conscious about cleaning it.”

WildCare treats 4,000 animals a year, from more than 200 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. “If you find a sick bird, bring them in a warm, dark and quiet container,” said Smith-Ruiz.

“They’re not pets. They’re wild and terrified, apart from being sick,” added Armstrong. Once they are physically able to survive again, they are released back where they are found.

Patient 4650 is currently receiving the antibiotic TMS three times a day and Gentamicin through the nebulizer once a day, in addition to anti-inflammatory medication. But as of Tuesday night, the last entry in his patient record reads, “Disease is spreading.”

Visit http://www.wildcarebayarea.org for more information about Intelligent Feeding Guidelines or how to volunteer. If you have any questions, call the WildCare’s Living with Wildlife hotline at 415-456-SAVE.

Old Fairfax bones dug up (Point Reyes Light, 12.11.2008)

•December 12, 2008 • Leave a Comment

When a construction crew working on sewer lines in Fairfax dumped the dark soil out of the digging bucket of their backhoe onto Bolinas Road last Tuesday, they saw skeletal remains. They looked inside the trench they were digging and saw more bones about six feet underground. They stopped their work and called the Fairfax Police Department.

Sergeant Chris Morin arrived. The two skulls that were excavated from the hole—one was almost fully intact and the other was a partial—were lying in a pile of dirt on the street, along with a leg bone and a portion of a hip bone. “I could see other skeletal remnants in the trench, but they were shards and pieces—nothing I could identify,” Morin said. “I’d assume there were full skeletons of two people.”

“Initially the question was ‘Who did what to whom?’” said Michael Durphy, a resident on Bolinas Road.

The area was cordoned off while police waited for confirmation. “We’re always thinking, ‘Do we have a crime here?’” Morin said. “I’m not an expert in examining skeletons, but it appeared to me that they were probably ancient skeletal remains. They looked very old to me, but how long does it take to decompose in the ground? That’s not my realm of expertise.”

Fairfax police called the coroner’s office. “The skeletal remains looked prehistoric,” said Darrell Harris, the coroner’s investigator for Marin County. “They appeared to be weathered and very old, and the crushed seashells in the soil was consistent with a Native American
burial site.”

Harris was there for about 45 minutes. “It’s not exactly a whodunit kind of case,” Harris said. “We have lots of experience with Native American bones due to the geography and history.” But unable to make a final determination, Harris called Archaeological Resource Services (ARS).

In a white body bag brought by the coroner, police collected the bones that were visible and brought them to the evidence facility to house them until they received confirmation from ARS and the Native American Heritage Commission (NAHC). “Our case is closed,” Morin said. “There’s no crime that we’re investigating.”

North Bay Construction in Petaluma was contracted by the Ross Valley Sanitary District. They were digging a trench in the roadway to replace a sewer line. Three properties—which were sharing one line that met up with the main sewer line along the street—were getting their own sewer line from the house to the main. The laterals were only completed for two of the properties.

The trench was on private property off the roadway. At the time work was halted, the trench was about four feet long and two and a half feet wide. The crew finished up the street work, closed up the trench, and did not give that particular house its own main sewer line as they had planned.

Preserving remains

When human remains are found, the police and coroner are called to determination if it’s a crime scene. If the answer is negative, they then call an archaeologist to determine if the remains are Native American. The coroner calls the Native American Heritage Commission (NAHC), which is charged with looking into the files and calling the tribe that is the most likely descendent.

Last week, a physical anthropologist from ARS visually inspected the uncovered bones. “The situation of the remains and their condition and age clearly indicated that it was Native American,” said Bill Roop of ARS. “It was in a previously unknown Native American site. The area developed quite early.”

The California Native American Commission in Sacramento takes into account where the remains were found. If someone can trace themselves to the village site within 12 miles of the area, they are identified as the most likely descendent (MLD). Otherwise, the tribe culturally related to that area is designated the MLD.

“It’s possible that when we designate the tribe, a couple people can remember the old songs and rituals, and they’re the ones that take care of it,” said Katy Sanchez of the NAHC. The MLD takes care of the remains, making sure that they are reburied with the proper services
and rites.

Nute Engineering in San Rafael contacted Garcia and Associates (GANDA), natural and cultural resource consultants in San Anselmo. Barbra Siskin and Phil Reid went out to assess the situation after the remains were moved to the coroner’s office.

“It was a very residential area right along the creek—obviously an area of archaeological sensitivity,” said Siskin, senior archaeologist. “The soil was dark. It was really clear that this is right in the middle of a midden—a cultural deposit.” Where Native Americans disposed of their dietary refuse, the soil would change every year they lived there. It turns dark with organic matter, such as fauna and shellfish remains. “This becomes an obvious way, at least on the coast, to find habitation sites.”

Siskin followed up with NAHC to identify the MLD.

“In Marin County, that will be the Coast Miwok. Ethnographically, we knew it was us,” said Nick Tipon chairman of the Sacred Sites Protection Committee of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, which includes the Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo people. This federally recognized tribe is a sovereign nation with 1,100 members that works with public agencies on the impact on cultural resources.
The next day, Siskin met with Tipon and tribal council elder Gene Buvelot. “The goal was to get the tribe’s recommendations on how to proceed with the situation,” Siskin said. “We helped the engineers for the sanitary district comply with the public resources code.”
The MLD made recommendations to the lead agency—Ross Valley Sanitary District, in this case—to determine how to treat the remains in accordance with tribal respect.

“We talked about screening the soil that had come out of the trench in order to gather the rest of the remains so they can all be buried together,” Siskin said.

Using one-quarter-inch mesh screens, Cassidy DeBaker and Amy McCarthy-Reid from GANDA sifted for fragments in the dirt that had been dug out of the trench. “We didn’t do any additional excavation,” Siskin said. “We just mitigated the disturbances that had already
been done.”

“We feel like our people were buried in a specific place with a prayer and they should be allowed to rest in peace,” Tipon said. “They shouldn’t have to be disturbed.” The extracted remains and associated artifacts were handed to Tipon.

The reburial took place about a week later. The skeletal remains were not tested for age.

“If your great great grandmother died and her remains were disturbed, it really doesn’t matter how old she was when she died,” Tipon said. “It’s not important how old they are. We know our ancestors have been around Marin County for 9,000 to 10,000 years. We’ve been around for a while.”