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Bridging Bridging the the Marsh Marsh Frank Written By and Designed By FrankKapp Kapp

Dedication I would like to dedicate this project to everyone involved in solving this ongoing problem. Both the Coastal Alliance for Species Enhancement, as well as the California Fish and Wildlife Organization, have worked for years to try and develop a solution. Together, their attempts to compromise and bridge the gap between a local conservation group, and a state-run environmental agency, are quite impressive. I am optimistic that this problem will be solved from the work of these two entities.

Acknowledgments Without Nina Anderson, my aunt, as well as Mr. Greco, Ms. Parkinson, and Mr. Florendo, and my mom Pat Kapp, I would not have been able to complete this project. My aunt Nina was instrumental in helping me illuminate the untold story of the Pescadero, and developing my angle. My fantastic teachers provided me with amazing support, and showed immense flexibility. My rock, my mom, was always willing to offer her help, and always kept me on top of this important project. The help of all these individuals was absolutely necessary to my completion of this documentary.

Table of Contents Dedication & Acknowledgement.............................. pgs.2-3 Table of Contents...................................................... pgs.4-5 Foreword.................................................................. pgs.6-8 Introduction............................................................ pgs.9-12 Establishing the Environment.............................. pgs.13-14 Let’s fix this Problem, Now................................... pgs.15-20 A Complex Compromise....................................... pgs.21-25 Conclusion............................................................ pgs.26-29 Works Cited.......................................................... pgs.30-31

Foreword Initially, I stumbled upon my topic while attending the Pescadero Town Council meeting in February. I took an interest in this town because my family and I have always loved having brunch at Duarte’s Tavern, the common hub of the area. The beautiful, quiet beaches lie adjacent to the town. The location is unique, and I was excited to find a documentary topic that nobody else in class would have. February 11th marked the official date of the town council meeting, and I knew that one of the town’s issues would be presented; Or rather present itself to me. That issue was the ongoing kill of Steelhead Trout that has been happening in the Pescadero Marsh since the 1990’s. My goal was to find out what was really going on, and how after all these years the kills continued to happen. After further research, I realized that the fish kill was an extremely complicated issue. I chose to document this topic in order to raise awareness for a cause that needs immediate attention and a solution. This book is organized by setting the stage of the issue and continuing to describe the longevity of the issue. Then I proceed to illustrate the differing views of the two main groups combating the matter. Without a doubt, the testimonials I received from Steve Simms, Irma Mitton and Joanne Kerbavaz proved to be the most helpful pieces of information. The combination of their three different backgrounds and relationship to the issue was instrumental in creating a documentary that accurately conveys how the Coastal Alliance for Species Enhancement as well as the California Fish and Wildlife organization would hope to solve the issue. Ultimately, the long commute from Mountain View to Pescadero proved to be my largest obstacle. The drive via highways 280, 92 and 1 is not an easy one as it takes a good amount of time. Also contributing to my documentary’s slow production was the complication of the issue. Scientifically, fish kills are processes that require lots of research in order to do justice to end them. For years, conservationists have attempted to find the cause and solution of the fish kills. In just one month, my largest obstacle was raising awareness for an ongoing environmental issue in a region that does not receive enough attention. 7


Introduction Imagine this. It’s the morning after the first big rainstorm of the 1998-1999 winter.

states it perfectly: “Bracketed by almost impassable cliffs on the south and north (Waddell

ropolitan Bay Area.” Despite the overcast skies and past damp hiking trails, nature calls

You, along with your friends and family, are excited to go on an outdoor adventure and hike for the first time along the path surrounding the marshland in Pescadero, California. The Pescadero Watershed

and Devil’s Slide), the steep and twisted ridges of the Santa Cruz Mountains on the east, and facing a rugged and rocky coastline, the Pescadero watershed is remarkably isolated, given its proximity to the met-

for your group to investigate its mysteries. Normally, the cool sea breeze is refreshing. On this day, the pungent, salty air reeks of a disgusting odor. Initially, the smell is blamed on the large pile of seaweed that 9

washed ashore on the beach not even fifty yards from where you all stand. Though you are

all thoroughly uncomfortable, you begin your hike in silence. The occasional screech of the seagull is the only noise that disrupts your peaceful trek. Ten 10

minutes go by and the stench has grown fouler. Upon rounding a bend in the trail, your

Pond. Taken aback, you look closer and see that all of the fish are...dead. Half of your group remains by the side of the steelhead trout, while three of your elder members drive into town, looking for someone of authority to assess the situation. A fish kill has just taken place in Pescadero. As the years go by, the fish kill of steelhead in thiast skies and past damp hiking trails, nature calls for your group to investigate it’s mysteries. Normally, the cool sea breeze is refreshing. On this day the pungent, salty air reeks of a disgusting odor. Initially, the smell is blamed on the large pile of seaweed that washed ashore on the beach younger cousin calls out, “Look! not even fifty yards from where Fish!” Sure enough, there apyou all stand. Though you are pears to be hundreds of offall thoroughly uncomfortable, white, scaly bellies floating in you begin your hike in silence. the shallow depths of the North The occasional screech of the

seagull is the only noise that disrupts your peaceful trek. Ten minutes go by and the stench has grown fouler. Upon rounding a bend in the trail, your younger cousin calls out, “Look! Fish!� Sure enough, there appears to be hundreds of off-white, scaly bellies floating in the shallow depths of the North Pond. Taken aback, you look closer and see that all of the fish are... dead. Half of your group remains by the side of the posthumous steelhead trout, while three of your elder members drive into town, looking for someone of authority to assess the situation. A fish kill has just taken place in Pescadero. As the years go by, the fish kill of steelhead in this region has become a yearly occurrence. Activists from the Coastal Alliance for Species Enhancement theorize that the Marsh Restoration Project (1997) is the

main cause of the fish kill. The restoration indirectly managed to disrupt the natural processes of the marshland, and paid the

fish population and subsequently throwing off the entire food chain, we must act now. We must fix this fifteen-year-old

price in the form of the lives of hundreds of fish. This real-life environmental issue has been ongoing for fifteen years and remains unresolved. If we want to avoid the extinction of the



Establishing the Environment Ever since I can remember, my family has enjoyed day trips to Pescadero, California, a quaint beach town thirty minutes away from Half Moon Bay. The town is peaceful and interesting, as it is surrounded by beautiful redwood forests and lush farmland. Its proximity to the coast is just another reason why one might end up in town. I took interest in the town’s marshland issues after attending a Town Council meeting at the local church on February 11, 2014. At this meeting, a passionate activist named Steve Simms, from the conservationist group known as CASE, caught my attention. Simms attempted to give a status update on the marshes, yet he was interrupted and asked to save his update for a later date. Immediately, I knew that Simms held information about an issue that was too big to talk about in a single two-hour meeting. Towards the end of the meeting,

another citizen, Irma Mitton, reminded everyone to be prepared to talk in detail about the issues of the marsh at the next meeting. In 1997, the California Fish and Wildlife organization completed a project claiming to restore the marsh of Pescadero. Prior to the “restoration,” floods in the Pescadero area were common, though the wildlife lived in harmony. In order to manage the water flowing into the marsh, flood gates were installed, and the water was spread out over a larger area of water. At that time, the project seemed like an excellent solution to many, but by the following year, the flood gates from the restoration had become completely rusted over due to a lack of proper maintenance. The rusty flood gates are still stuck open, fifteen years later. A giant mass of standing water engulfs the cattails and other plants in the wetland

area, which depletes the oxygen in the water. These problems led to the destruction of wildlife and various species that live in the marsh. Anoxic water, or water that is extremely depleted of oxygen, builds up in this new area of the marsh, where floodwater has encroached on other plant life. “Anoxic conditions will occur if the rate of oxidation of organic matter by bacteria is greater than the supply of dissolved oxygen” (Bjork; Short; Mcleod). Dead plants absorb much of the oxygen in the water, which creates a dangerous environment for the plethora of steelhead trout, crabs, gobies, snakes and frogs living in this sensitive ecosystem. When the first big rains of the winter hit Pescadero, the marsh flows out towards the ocean, creating a breach. The water that remains in the marsh is the same water found on the floor of the marsh (the anoxic water). Fish and other species that encounter



the anoxic water are suffocated almost instantly. Steve Simms of CASE, puts it best when he says, “These fish are fine in there until the stir of iron oxide

Death counts vary from year to year, but are often extremely significant, in terms of the sheer amount of fish killed. Joanne Kerbavaz, of the Cali-

Endangered Steelhead trout are the main feature of each fish kill, mostly because of their special adaptations, status and size. A buildup of poor water kills

and hydrogen sulfide overcomes them.” (Simms, Interview.) Essentially, Simms is describing the chemical process that proves to be fatal for the Steelhead.

fornia Fish and Wildlife Organization, says that, “The highest number is around 300, the lowest number is less than ten,” when referring to the number of fish killed from year to year.

steelhead trout year after year, and us humans are responsible for finding a proper, long-term fix. The marshes need to be rerestored so that the species can live safely once more.


After numerous visits to Pescadero to learn about the marsh, I formed a tight relationship with a few members of the Coastal Alliance for Species Enhancement. CASE, formed in

and plans for combating the issue. She explained to me that “The only way we could take action was if there was some formal entity that was at the table (CASE).” CASE, a nonprofit or-

them and I arranged meetings for us to sit down and talk shop. My meeting with Simmswas first. At 66 years of age, Simms has been working on resolving this issue since the fish kill after

“These are native fish, they’ve never been stocked here, are native to these two streams, and can never be duplicated.” 2011 in order to organize their efforts to find a way to resolve the problem pertaining to the fish kills in the marsh. My first initial contact with CASE came during the Pescadero Town Council meeting in February. Irma Mitton, a local resident of Pescadero, reminded the attendees of the meeting to be prepared to discuss progress

ganization, has emerged as the most prominent activist group for this issue. It was clear that Irma would lead me in the right direction for researching this project. Almost immediately after introducing myself to Mitton, and explaining my purpose and assignment to her, I was pointed to Steve Simms. The two of

the 1997 restoration project. For 15 years, Simms has been on the front lines, helping to count dead fish, photographing the problem-causers and the victims, and sharing the predicament with anyone who will listen. His efforts have not yet yielded many results, however. Fish kills continue to be ongoing despite CASE’s formation.


At this point in time, both CASE, as well the California Fish and Wildlife Organization are still trying to find the best way to solve the problem. The

directly affected by the fish kills that take place in almost their backyards, want to take action and solve the problem of the steelhead trout fish kills once

taken a backseat in the problem solving process. It is easy to see why CASE members want the fish kills to stop happening. For one, with

two groups have extremely different goals. CASE, comprised of local residents who are often

and for all. Fish and Wildlife, the supposed perpetrators of the fish kill, appear to have

fish being killed each year, it is common knowledge that the steelhead population is dwin-


dling in California. Simms has stated that, “These are native fish, they’ve never been stocked here, are native to these two streams, and can never be du-

tinct on our watch, that would be criminal. Also contributing to the pressing urge to find a solution, is the longevity of this issue. Simms, at age 66, has put

You would think that after all these years, Fish and Wildlife would have found a solution to satisfy everyone, however this is simply not the case. Further

plicated.” This brings up a good point. At what point must we drop everything, and set our priorities on the native fish, the steelhead. Without a doubt, these are important fish to our culture, and should they go ex-

in fifteen years of work, and is getting fed up with how long it is taking to find an answer. When asked how it he feels about the status of the project, Simms said, “It drives me nuts!” And understandably so.

research must be conducted in order to truly find an answer that solves the fish kill issue, without creating more issues of its own.

A Complex Compromise Fish kills are a major issue in the Pescadero marsh. The fish kill is a very visible problem, but indicates a larger environmental issue of an un-

to be formed in order for the steelhead kills to end once and for all. The California Fish and Wildlife organization’s goal, “... is to manage California’s diverse fish, wildlife, and plant re-

believe that Fish and Wildlife are the cause of the fish kills in the Pescadero marshland, as well as the reason why the issue of the fish kills remains unsolved. However, I hope to

“This project was installed in 1993, and was working in 1995, during the first kill, so it can’t possibly be the failure of this project that caused this 1995 kill.” (Kerbavaz) healthy marshland. Two groups have set out to find an answer to the problem, but are often at odds due to differing views in the how the process should be solved. A compromise needs

sources, and the habitats upon which they depend, for their ecological values and for their use and enjoyment by the public” (California Fish and Wildlife). Many Pescadero Residents

clear up this notion, and shed new light on the issue, and give balance to understanding the slow-moving process. Starting off, “The Restoration” that was completed in 1997, was 21

not the only project hoping to rebuild part of the Pescadero marshes during the 1990’s. In 1993, “The North Pond North Marsh Preferred alternative was constructed during the summer” (Pescadero Marsh Final Report). One of the initial marsh restorations, this project did not contribute to the first fish kill that was observed in 1995. CASE, who have altruistic intentions in ending the fish kills, does not always mention these details. In fact, their brochure, a document which briefly discusses the history of the issue, and what it is, fails to mention many details. A timeline showing the status of the marsh from the years 19842008 leaves numerous years and details out. The brochure is extremely effective at illustrating their position, but further research can poke some larger holes. Failure to mention this 1993 restoration project is misleading, because “This project was installed in 1993, and was working in 1995, during the 22

first kill, so it can’t possibly be the failure of this project that caused this 1995 kill” (Kerbavaz). What was working at this time, was an increase of the tidal prism which helped to create a larger flow of water, which would flush out much of the unwanted sediment that has built up in the marsh over the years. CASE loses some credibility after omitting this key piece of information. It is clear that by glossing over the first kill, it is easy to show that the failure of the 1997 Restoration Project directly contributed to the fish kill of 1998. Due to the obvious fact that two entities have different viewpoints, much of the work from one will feature an enormous bias against the other. The reality of the situation, is that it is an extremely complicated problem, and each proposed plan must be heavily researched. Many plans have been proposed, however none have been officially adopted as of this date. An Environmental Impact Report is required for any official proposal, thus

involving a grueling, and arduous, two-year process. Nobody wants to see a plan fail, and the only way to avoid failure is to conduct research with the latest environmental research tools available. In 2012, a Science Panel of “lagoon experts” (Kerbavaz) formed, which featured a group of scientists with no ties to the location. Tasked with finding an economically feasible and lasting solution to the marsh’s issues, the science panel must work to appease everyone. This includes CASE, as well as California Fish and Wildlife, as well as the nature and environment of the marsh. Any solution for the fish kill issue may have other effects on the marsh as well, which many people do not realize. What scientists know in 2014, wasn’t completely developed or understood in the early 1990’s, which simply adds complexity to the solving process. These experts must examine all the theoretical solutions for the marsh, and choose a course of action for installing the best

one. At the end of the day, both

be healthy, so the goal that best

that process and buy-in to the

CASE, and California Fish and Wildlife want the fish kills to cease and the environment to

fits the need of the marsh will be carried out. It is important that both sides contribute to

solution. 23


Conclusion Years later, long after the first trip to the marshland, the original group gets back together for a reunion. Though much older now, your family and friends are as excited as ever to hike the trails around the Pescadero Marsh. Just like your excursion many years ago, your hike is taking place the morning after a rain. The cool grey skies and sea breeze float a fresh aroma across the tips of your noses. This feeling is wonderful, and everyone is at a loss for words. It takes your not-so-young cousin, to once again, state the obvious. The air does not reek of dead fish! Everyone remembers the first fish kill, and are aware that through careful scientific

analysis, and compromise, the development a lasting solution has been created. Everyone can

truly appreciate the work done to solve this ongoing environmental issue.

The works of CASE to educate the public on the grandeur of the issue have been instrumental. California’s Fish and Wildlife Organization also has been extremely helpful in the conservation of the fish. Though these two groups seemed to often be at odds, they both held the same goal of wanting to fix the issue. In terms of timing, the marsh took longer to fix than many had hoped. Many people attribute this long waiting period to the California Fish and Wildlife’s unwillingness to cooperate with the Coastal Alliance for Species Enhancement. However, it needs to be stated that the Fish and Wildlife Organization wants to find a solution that will be suitable


for the entire environment.

the long waiting period. These

extremely complicated, and are

Intensive research needs to be done to find a solution, hence

facts continue to prove that the steelhead trout fish kills are

not quick and easy to solve. 29

Works Cited “About the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.” About the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. 31 Mar. 2014 <>. Bjork, Mats ; Short, Fred; McLeod, Elizabeth and Beer, Sven (2008). “Managing Sea-grasses for Resilience to Climate Change”. Volume 3 of IUCN Resilience Science Group Working Papers. Gland, Switzerland: International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). “Coastal Alliance for Species Enhancement.” Coastal Alliance for Species Enhancement. 12 Feb. 2014 <>. “In This Issue:.” Fall Newsletter 2012. 15 Feb. 2014 <>. Kerbavaz, Joanne. Personal Interview. 12 March. 2014. Mitton, Irma. Personal Interview. 8 March. 2014. “Pescadero Marsh Restoration Assessment and Recommendations for Ecosystem Management.” Mar. 2008. Coastal Alliance for Species Enhancement, California Department of Parks and Recreation. 13 Mar. 2014 <>. Simms, Steve. Personal Interview. 2 March. 2014. Warne, K. P. Let them eat shrimp: The tragic disappearance of the rainforests of the sea. Washington, DC: Island P, 2011. 31

Bridging the MArsh

The Author, Frank Kapp is a 16 year old Mountain View High School student. At the Freestyle Academy, his main focus is Web/Audio Production. Frank participates in Varsity football at Mountain View High, but enjoys sports of all varieties. A natural-born leader, Frank prides himself in setting a positive example for others. He hopes to prove those who doubt his skills that “judging a book by its cover,” is truly a poor decision. After finding an issue to study for the Documentary unit, Frank poured the majority of his time and effort into doing the project justice. His passion for completing his work thoroughly is a defining characteristic of the author. Without a doubt, the Documentary Project has been Frank’s favorite project so far at the Freestyle Academy.

Bridging Bridging the the Marsh Marsh By Frank Kapp Written and Designed By Frank Kapp

Frank Kapp

Frank kapp