Up the Creek

February 4, 2008

We have herd that it appears that the Town has been doing illegal repair and some new construction work on horse trails running through the creeks.

More than ten creeks run through our Town, including the watersheds for San Francisquito Creek and Redwood Creek, both of which flow into the Bay. Our creeks are homes for wildlife, some of which is endangered or threatened. Along with land animals, threatened steelhead trout also make their homes in some of our creeks.

The health of this ecosystem is of critical importance, and can be put at risk by poor practices, such as allowing horse wastes into a watershed. According to an equestrian water quality best practices document prepared by Orange County, although horse wastes (manure, urine and soiled bedding) are organic, biodegradable materials, many of their physical, biological and chemical properties (such as sediment, phosphorous, nutrients, and bacteria) can be detrimental to water quality and can adversely affect human health and aquatic life in water bodies.

Please also see the COUNCIL OF BAY AREA RESOURCE CONSERVATION DISTRICTS “Horse Owners Guide to Water Quality Protection” and this from Green Foothills regarding horses and streams.

Horse trails that intersect waterways are regulated by the state Department of Fish and Game. Any time work is done on these sensitive areas, Fish and Game must be notified. Additionally, the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Board has jurisdiction over certain aspects of water quality in our region as well.

Despite the serious environmental concerns, over the last couple of years the Town may have engaged in a pattern of doing repair and new construction work on horse trails near and through our creeks without informing the Department of Fish and Game or the Water Board. While the Town does make sure that there is Fish and Game involvement when some homeowners are doing work near a creek or drainage swale, it appears that the Town itself does not see any need to inform the appropriate agencies or seek any required permit when it is responsible for the work. We love the riding trail near Bear Gulch Creek but, from what we understood at the time, Fish and Game were not contacted during the construction – despite the area being a threatened red-legged frog habitat. We thought that was an isolated incident but now we are once again hearing about work in the creeks. We sure hope that Fish and Game is involved.

Horses are an integral to our COWmunity and they help define our Town. Our trails are important to us but so is environmental preservation. The Council should come up with fair, unambiguous guidelines, applicable to all of us and the Town, itself, to control all work near watersheds in order to protect these fragile areas and to allow our equestrians and their horses continued access to our watersheds in a safe manner.

Further Reading on Water Quality Standards go here.

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