Historical ecology team presents findings at Contra Costa County Watershed forum
Agencies, nonprofits gather to discuss watershed issues
By Roni Gehlke
For the Contra Costa Times
Posted: 11/22/2011 01:06:42 PM PST
Updated: 11/22/2011 03:17:12 PM PST
Numerous state and local agencies, local nonprofit environmental groups and community volunteers came together last week to discuss issues and share perspectives about the health of local creeks, storm basins and the more than two dozen watersheds in Contra Costa County.
The opportunity to gather to share ideas and showcase work on local creeks comes only once every four years at the Costa County Watershed Symposium, which this year was held in Antioch at the community center.
The one-day event, featured speakers, forums and a chance to exchange information and ideas regarding stream restoration, water quality, fish habitat and other related topics.
The event was hosted by the Contra Costa Watershed Forum, which is an organization comprised of several local watershed officials, county employees and state and local representatives.
Master of ceremonies for this year's event, District III Contra Costa County Supervisor Mary Piepho, greeted the crowd of more than 300 people.
"The Delta is not just a plumbing feature for us, it is a way of life," Piepho said before going over the agenda for the day's activities.
One of the key exchanges of the event was the disbursement of newly completed East Contra Costa County Historical Ecology Study compiled by the San Francisco Estuary Institute.
"We literally just picked this up from the printer just 18 hours ago," said Ruth Askevold about the study at the event. "That is a little too close for my comfort."
Askevold and other representatives from the group spoke on the 117-page oversized document filled with historic and current maps. The idea of the study was to show the changes in the ecological landscape over time. Several of the maps inside the study date back to the mid-1800s giving the picture of a much different landscape than the one residents are familiar with today.
A special tribute was made to "Watershed Pioneer" Nancy Stein who died earlier this year. Stein was a watershed management planning specialist for the Contra Costa County Watershed program and worked on many watershed projects over the years, including the Pinole Creek Watershed.
A special honorary award for "Watershed Champion" was given to East County's Diane Burgis. Burgis is the executive director for the Friends of Marsh Creek Watershed. Also recognized was East County's Brian Curren as Volunteer Watershed Monitoring Participant of the Year, for his work in measuring macroinvertebrates in East Contra Costa County.
Other speakers included Katie Knapp, a representative from Boulder, Colo., speaking on the problems they face in Boulder, where they are more than a dozen creeks just within their city limits.
Delta enthusiasts Jeff Hart from Eco-Farm and Delta Eco Tours and Barry Nelson of Natural Resources Defense Council spoke on the evolution of the Delta. There was also an offering of exchange of information forums to round out the event.
The final speaker of the day was newly retired Mitch Avalon, speaking for the last time as a representative of the Contra Costa County Public Works Department. Avalon has been a key player in watershed work for the county over the last several years. He said he hoped the county watersheds would be beautified in the future.