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Letters to the Editor

Wednesday June 27, 2001

Trout in Codornices not a fish story 


Friends of Five Creeks feels it is important to correct the statement, in a letter from a 15-year neighbor of Codornices Creek, that the creek “is not now nor has it been home to large fish.” 

Significant numbers of rainbow trout or steelhead inhabit Codornices Creek from below San Pablo at least as far upstream as St. Mary's College High School. Our volunteers have observed these fish regularly since we began restoration work on the creek in the 1990s. They also have been observed in at least a half dozen "holes" by numerous neighbors as well as students and faculty at St. Mary's. The fishes' size range, from small “fingerlings” to more than 10 inches, and their persistence over years, indicates that they are reproducing in the creek.  

On March 16, 2000, with the help of Dr. Tom Dudley of UC Berkeley (who had the required permits), we briefly stunned one of the fish with mild electric current, photographed it, and identified it as Oncorynchus mykiss, steelhead or rainbow trout. (Steelhead and rainbow trout differ only in behavior. Those that go to sea become steelhead, growing quite large, while others remain in fresh water as smaller rainbow trout. Since large steelhead have been observed swimming upstream in the lower creek, the simplest explanation for the fish in Codornices Creek seems to be that at least in some years, steelhead, which explore new streams much more readily than salmon, make their way up Codornices Creek and successfully reproduce.) 

Neither the several culverts along the creek below St. Mary's nor the drops at their outfalls seems to pose an insuperable barrier. Our several years' monitoring of Codornices Creek indicates that the creek's temperature, pH, and general water quality is more than adequate for salmon or trout. We do not know exactly where these fish lay eggs. But it is no surprise that there apparently is suitable habitat in the deep, shady canyon in protected back yards of the many neighbors who care for the creek. We will learn more from the recent Proposition 13 grant to the Urban Creeks Council, to research and improve steelhead habitat in Codornices Creek. 

I write this letter with some concern that thoughtless people could destroy this urban treasure. So let me point out that steelhead are a federally protected endangered species. There are heavy penalties for disturbing them in any way, including fishing. 

It is a great gift and a responsibility to have a trout stream in a city. The fact that these fish seem to be thriving offers a bright future for keeping and restoring green threads in our urban fabric, where we can find solace and joy, and where some of the many species that share our world can continue to thrive. I hope we will make the most of this opportunity and obligation. 

Susan Schwartz 

President, Friends of Five Creeks, Berkeley 

Glad to be back 


Recently returned to our regular world of ups and downs and smooth and rough roads, I want to share some thoughts from my last six months of separateness and sadness. 

I am grateful that it lasted only six months as compared to a previous eighteen-month period. I am grateful that I had already learned the value of medication and did not resist too long the need for change. 

I benefited from the loving patience and concern of my family and a few close friends and from the professional and library resources of Kaiser Permanente Medical Center. I benefited from The Zen Path through Depression by Philip Martin, a gift from one of my sons. I benefited from a part time job which pays me to walk, that most healthy of physical activities. 

I know the City of Berkeley and Alta Bates Medical Center have Mental Health Services and the Berkeley Public Library has books on the subject. 

Even as I found myself increasingly unable to want to be with people, I clung tenuously to some kind of prayer life and some kind of worship. One of my ministers sent me the following poem by May Sarton. Consider it my “glad to be back” greeting to all of you. 


Help us to be the always hopeful 

Gardeners of the spirit 

Who know that without darkness 

Nothing comes to birth 

As without light 

Nothing flowers 

Bill Trampleasure 


Trash bins ugly 


We recently spent a week showing some out-of-town guests the sights around Berkeley. After engaging in various activities downtown our guests remarked that at some locations there were trash receptacles sitting out on the sidewalk all the time. In particular, there were rows of them on Shattuck Avenue between University Avenue and Addison Street and on Allston Way between Shattuck Avenue and Oxford Street. Some of them were overflowing with garbage and had maggots crawling around on the rims. Isn’t there an ordinance that requires businesses to keep trash receptacles off the sidewalks except on pick-up days? It looks terrible and is unsanitary. Why is this practice tolerated especially in light of the fact that the city is engaged in a program to beautify the downtown area? 

Walter Koni 


Tritium facility worrisome  


The“Don’t worry - be happy” letter by Elmer Grossman (6/11) regarding Lawrence Berkeley Lab’s (LBNL) radioactive pollution from its Tritium Facility is a snowstorm of omissions, half-truths and wishful thinking. The presentation by Mr. Franke, Berkeley’s hired consultant, included evidence that the normal operations at the facility were significantly reduced for the last two years which is all he reported on. Local activists believe that procedures involving the dumping of deadly tritium waste were curtailed after researchers discovered alarming levels of contamination locked up in the vegetation, water and air at the site; including the air inside the Lawrence Hall of Science immediately downwind from the tritium stack. Found to be Super-Fund eligible, plus the presence of a huge underground radioactive plume, the Tritium Facility became vulnerable and this convinced LBNL to reduce activities about three years ago. Repeated requests to evaluate the high contamination levels and tens of thousands of curies of missing tritium inventory were ignored by Mr. Franke who said LBNL’s records were so funky that no sense could be made of them, something Mr. Grossman forgot to mention. Whether or not the reports were exaggerated, Mr. Franke stands by his conclusion that a catastrophic release of the facility’s entire storage due to earthquake, fire or accident, would subject the next-door children visitors to much more radiation than LBNL’s cooked calculations. 

Mr. Grossman plays that tired game of comparing one-time exposure to the very different reality of long-time radiation damage from an internal source like tritium which has been absorbed.  

The Straume report actually says that LBNL minimizes the danger from tritium and that tritium is more bio-effective (harmful) than gamma radiation. The other government -funded studies suffer from accepting LBNL’s data declarations uncritically, as when the McKone report uses the EPA’s stack model for stack emissions designed for flat terrain when anyone can see that the tritium stack sits below the Lawrence Museum and blows it’s rad waste upward engulfing it. Or when the source of the rad-waste is mysteriously moved from the stack to the building so as to be in Zone 2 with it’s lower calculations. The U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances, which produced only a consultation instead of a study, later showed higher than expected breast cancer occurrence in a already high incidence area in the Panoramic Hill area. 

Mr. Grossman is well aware of the problems related to the tritium facility but has chosen instead to bamboozle the public and promote LBNL’s deceptions. There is nothing remotely normal about the Tritium Facility and it’s continuous dumping of long-lasting, disease causing rad-waste into our community and no snake-oil salesmen are going to change our concerns or our determination to close this disaster and clean up the site before it spreads any further. 

Mark McDonald