TBF is actively working on resolution of contamination and the restoration of wetland habitats. In late 2022 the California Coastal Conservancy awarded TBF funds for the planning and permitting of the Chicken Ranch Beach Wetland Enhancement and Contamination Reduction Project. Planning is now underway administered by PCI, an engineering firm in Sebastopol.
Chicken Ranch Beach, located on Tomales Bay approximately 1 mile northwest of Inverness, is a very popular County Park especially for families with small children since it lacks the breakers of beaches on the outer coast. On weekends and holidays the park can see hundreds of users per day. The property adjacent to the beach belongs to State Lands and has a stagnant ditch, designated as Channel B, which intercepts shallow groundwater flows and conveys water across the beach with bacteria counts routinely exceeding state limits for recreational water contact. Phylochip (DNA) analyses in 2014 indicated a non-human source of the bacteria that is likely from up-gradient wildlife origins. This persistently contaminated flow across the beach from Channel B is accessible to beachgoers and, despite County signs warning of contamination and health risks. Children often play in this flow and visitors are exposed to the contaminated water as they cross the beach. This is a longstanding problem documented in frequent county water quality testing. There is strong community support for a project that would reduce human health risks by remediating the bacterial contamination. The Tomales Bay Foundation (TBF), a 501.c.3 non-profit organization, is spearheading an effort to improve water quality and protect public health at Chicken Ranch Beach.
The Tomales Bay Foundation Chicken Ranch Committee (Tom Gaman, Ed Nute & Rebecca Smith-Bindman) continues to coordinate with the IA, County Parks, Coastal Conservancy, State Lands Commission, Prunuske-Chatham engineering consultants, Kamman Hydrology, neighbors and regulatory agencies to formulate design documents, permits and funding. We now have detailed design documents in hand and Coastal Conservancy on September 22, 2022 the California State Coastal Conservancy approved a $249K grant for engineering, design, permitting, planning and environmental studies.
The proposed project will involve drainage improvements and wetland enhancements to minimize bacterial contamination reaching the beach. Flows that currently cross the beach with high bacterial loads would be retained within the wetland sufficiently for natural processes to reduce bacterial counts and associated human health risks. Channel B will be filled in and wetlands will be created between the upstream end of Channel B and Third Valley Creek where water will discharge near the pedestrian bridge. Invasive Acacia will be replaced with native wetland species. Wildlife habitat enhancements for red-legged frogs and Tidewater Goby are also part of the plans.