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Feds, Water District At Odds Over Whether To Consider Novato Creek A Fish Habitat

NOVATO (KPIX) - When it comes to fish habitat, Novato Creek is missing the most important component: water. Reservoir levels are visibly low.

Yet, the federal government want the waterway to be considered a fish habitat to support the native steelhead trout.

"You don't need to be a biologist to realize it would be very difficult for a fish to survive in this type of environment," says Drew McIntyre with the North Marin Water District.

But that's not what 2015 study from the National Marine Fisheries says.

According to the study, the creek should be able to sustain about 1100 endangered steelhead trout, officially making the creek a recovery habitat.

That means any work the North Marin Water District wants to do on that part of the creek is under scrutiny by the federal government and that could require additional studies, which could be costly and unnecessary, McIntyre says.

"We're not against doing anything to protect the fish but we don't want to build a bridge to nowhere. We don't want to study a fish passage that would land the fish on dry ground," said McIntyre.

The Water District says the problem with this plan is that it was done without enough people to look at each watershed. Now they want the federal government to take a second look at what they've done, as well as consider the obvious.

That's why the District spent $50,000 doing its own research during wet and dry years, and came up with the same result: Steelhead trout in upper Novato Creek just aren't sustainable.

Now they are just waiting to pass that information along.

"We've taken that extra step to give them more detailed information to better assess the viability of what their initial recommendation was," says McIntyre. "That could help save the Water District a lot of money when we have a project at Stafford Dam."

The study does call for further investigation, which is exactly what the Water District has done. However, it is interesting to note, the study doesn't just cover Novato Creek, it includes any tributary that ends up in the San Francisco Bay.

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