Chapter 5 of “Our Watershed Stories” takes us 10 miles north of the Golden Gate, where over eons of time, Novato Creek carved a lush valley into these Marin County hills.
Bill Long, a longtime resident of Novato, has studied the history of the region. “The creek was the central feature of this valley,” he says. “It’s where the Native Americans gathered and it’s where wildlife gathered. When the area was developed, much of the creek ended up in people’s back yards”
“After World War II,” notes Chris DeGabrielle, “Novato was growing rapidly, and the well water supply couldn’t keep up.” That’s one reason why, in 1951, Stafford Lake was formed behind a dam constructed on the creek.
As a Novato resident, Long knows that when he turns on the tap, “about 20% of that water comes from Stafford Lake.” The rest comes from the Russian River, itself fed from the Eel River, in distant Mendocino County.
Stafford Lake also provides for wildlife habitat, but flood control is it’s most critical role whenever stormy weather rolls in.
Judy Arnold is the Marin County Supervisor who represents the city of Novato. “When we have a flood,” she says, “we have several neighborhoods that the water comes into their house.”
Long adds, “if there’s a big storm that hits at high tide, then the storm water builds up on top of the tidewater.”
The community has come together to restore Novato Creek’s banks, which helps reduce flooding’s impact. “And it looks like this is a habitat for humans and for nature that we’re creating,” says Arnold.
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