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Camp Meeker Beat - Tom Austin - January 2016

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Camp Meeker Beat - January 2016

by Tom Austin

Ah, good old Damp Sneaker. As I write this I am huddled in my miserable hovel of a house, waiting for the furnace repairman. It seems that a whole bunch of people discovered problems with their heating. And, as most of those clients are clustered together in Santa Rosa, Camp Meeker residents can go to the back of the line. They were supposed to be here yesterday, but…this is not a complaint. First of all, Rooter Express are about the only guys in this business who have a truck small enough for Camp Meeker’s roads. Therefore I love them and hold them in the highest esteem. Also because Cindy, who is manning the phones for this temporarily undermanned outfit, has been an absolute paragon of customer service. Friendly, personal, and taking ownership of the problem. We could all do to have Cindy on our staff. 

It’s probably time to give you an updated on the Camp Meeker Park and Rec Board (CMPRB, or The Board for short). “The Board” might be a little impersonal – The Board is your neighbors Lynn, Gary, Tony, Cathie and Val. They meet the second or third Tuesday of the month to grind away at the important business of Camp Meeker. It is always a thankless task, lately literally so:  when no major hot button issues are on the table, attendance at Board meetings drops to the summer trickle of Dutch Bill Creek. This is not a good thing, because Lynn, Gary, Tony, Cathie, and Val desire and depend upon vigorous community involvement and feedback to ensure that their decisions and actions are in the best interest of the Camp Meeker community. So come and help your neighbors take care of Camp Meeker!

Fortunately, in the absence of that community involvement, The Board manages to do a pretty darn good job the great majority of the time. Their latest action in that regard takes care of other members of the Camp Meeker community: the Steelhead and (endangered) Coho fingerlings that ride out the summer in Dutch Bill Creek before the autumn rains wash them gently down into the Russian River.  But what if there are no Autumn Rains? We may be off to a promising start to the rainy season now, but because of the now years-long drought the water available to fill those summer pools the fish hide in is in very, very short supply. When that happens those summer pools get smaller, warmer, and more accessible to raccoons – and that’s if they don’t dry up entirely.

At the beginning of this latest dry summer, projections were that none of the two or three thousand (we counted) fingerlings in the creek would survive to the rainy season. And as this is happening not just here but across the west county, there is a real chance that the Coho and/or the Steelhead would become extinct in the lower Russian River watershed. That’s not something we want happening on our watch, is it? The Board agreed, and they took action.

That’s a tall order right?  How to add more water to the creek in the middle of an epic drought, at a time when Camp Meeker residents are chafing under the state bureaucratic thumb with respect to water conservation, at the very least having to fill out forms reporting their water source and usage, and at the worst being sharply restricted in their water use. Fortunately, the Board (with help from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and the Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District (GRRCD) among others. The idea (pitched for years by biologist Brock Dolman of Occidental Arts and Ecology) is to pump water from our Camp Meeker wells near Monte Rio up to the Camp Meeker water storage tank, then put it back in the creek at a rate of 63,000 gallons a day. The beauty of this plan is that it does not waste water – the water promptly returns to the river from whence it came, and is identical in chemical composition to the water the fish are already living in.  “It’s like turning Dutch Bill into a giant fish tank”, said Board VP Gary Helfrich.

Pretty cool, right? You’ll like it even better when I tell you the price tag. A thousand bucks, more or less, to run plumbing from the water tank to the creek, plus the cost of running the pumps an extra twelve hours a day. Oh, and NOAA is picking up the tab!

So there you have it. A solution that doesn’t waste water, gives the fish a fighting chance, and doesn’t cost us a dime. Your Board at work.