21 years ago, the job of stream warden at the Solano County Water Agency was created by the Putah Creek Accord, an agreement ending 10 years of flow litigation of the creek with the mission of cleaning up Putah Creek. Rich Marovich, who has held the position since its inception, announced his retirement effective January.
Born and raised in Palo Alto, Marovich grew up exploring. He recalls that a six-year-old collected California black toads in a five-gallon bucket from the area’s cement-lined streams and released them to the family’s backyard where they were able to gorge themselves on them. insects. Over the course of a few weeks, he said they had grown into big, healthy toads.
His mother’s interest in science led him to collect monarch butterfly larvae from milkweed plants near his home. He brought the larvae home, provided them with milkweed, and watched the larvae pupate or transform from caterpillars to butterflies before releasing them.
In 1978, Marovich graduated from UC Davis where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in plant science with a specialization in nursery management. He worked for the California Department of Pesticide Regulation as a Senior Environmental Scientist and was the Founder and Principal Scientist of the Endangered Species Program.
After a year-long college reunion, Marovich searched for one of his classmates, Janet Krovoza, whose husband Joe was on the Putah Creek board. They shared their interest in whitewater boating and at one point Joe told Marovich about the stream keeper job offer and asked him how he would like to be paid to boating.
“It seemed irresistible,” Marovich said. Needless to say, he got hired and became Putah Creek’s first stream keeper.
As a stream keeper, Marovich said he “looks after Putah Creek overall”.
The responsibilities of the stream warden include educating the community, protecting the resources of Putah Creek, improving habitat and water quality, protecting against excessive diversion of water flow, supervising a team of ecologists, soil scientists, aquatic, fisheries and wildlife biologists and working with landowners along Ruisseau de Putah. Marovich noted that 75 percent of the land along the creek is privately owned, so to perform creek work, landowners must consent.
Marovich said there was no in-depth study of Putah Creek when he became Stream Keeper. One of his first grant-funded projects was to develop a watershed management action plan that included the physical and biological characteristics of the creek.
The first step was to do assessments of the creek, but the agency refrained from making recommendations until it spoke to the landowners. For decades, Putah Creek has been used as a dumping ground. It was therefore determined that identifying waste sites and communicating with landowners to discuss the cleanup was a step in the right direction. Eradicating invasive weeds, spawning chinook salmon, and improving wildlife habitat were also part of the discussion.
The discovery that most landowners were interested in cleaning up the creek led to a grant being awarded to remove garbage in and along the creek. Auto and tractor parts, washing machines, empty pesticide containers, tires and just about anything you can think of were dumped into the creek, Marovich said.
Marovich wanted to co-create with the landowners along the creek so that they could coordinate as an interest group. As it turned out, what the landowners wanted the most was to control trespassing, while the public wanted places to go on Putah Creek. These were, he said, complementary goals for each stakeholder; the creek was cleaned up and the public had Winters Putah Creek Park.
Importance of Putah Creek
Putah Creek is more valuable than they ever knew thanks to the Putah Creek Accord, said Marovich. Shortly after signing the agreement in May 2000, the Point Reyes Observatory conducted a reconnaissance survey stopping in tributaries along I-5 and I-505 to search for birds and classify their habitat. . Putah Creek was rated as one on a scale to ten which indicates a very low value.
In the years that followed, with perpetual wildlife watchers along the creek, Putah Creek was determined to be one of the best tributaries in the Sacramento area for diversity in wildlife support, Marovich said.
“This value was masked by the fact that it was a kind of rough diamond. The stream had been used as a dumping ground, drain, vegetation had been cleared, the channel straightened for flood transport, tapped for gravel and impacted in every way humans can have on a natural system, ”said Marovich.
Marovich stressed the importance of stream corridors for wildlife, as this is where the water that wildlife needs to survive during the summer months is found. Aquatic insects thrive and provide food sources for riparian birds. It is shelter and native riparian vegetation is for habitats.
“If the habitat is gone, so will our wildlife,” Marovich said.
“One of the things that attracted me to this role was that it was brand new. The sky was the limit. “
During his 21 years as a stream warden, more than $ 14 million in grants have been raised for physical and biological assessments, weed control, bank stabilization, geomorphic restoration and l home improvement.
“It has improved the stream tremendously,” said Marovich.
Twenty-one years of achievements.
We have achieved many goals, said Marovich, such as eliminating waste, controlling invasive weeds, promoting native vegetation, doubling the bird population, restoring annual chinook salmon runs in number that no one would have thought possible and the resolution of excessive diversions through dialogue with riparian owners.
“We not only restored a stream, but we also restored a sense of community. We are all in the same boat. When we tap into the collective wisdom, we also benefit from the support of the community, ”Marovich said and added. “The Town of Winters has been great with their support. “
“When we walk into the room, we don’t want to put the solution on the table. We want to put the problem on the table. We don’t want to reveal our solution until we have heard from stakeholders, as they may have better ideas. If you are not part of the problem, how can you be part of the solution? ” He asked.
Marovich passes the baton to Max Stevenson. Stevenson has served as the Deputy General Manager of the Yolo County Flood Control and Water Conservation District since 2012. He begins as the new keeper of Putah Creek on January 10, 2022. Stevenson has a doctorate in ecological plant physiology from UC Davis.
“I am delighted to hand the job over to Max Stevenson because he is super qualified and has the right temperament for it and because we now have the confidence for the future,” said Marovich.
As for the Brook Warden’s future, Marovich said, “It’s up to the Putah Creek Coordinating Committee and Max Stevenson to determine, but it’s likely to be better than ever imagined. As far as we have gone, there is an equal or greater distance to go.
Retired, Marovich is eager to spend time gardening, whitewater rafting and continuing to serve the betterment of the environment. Rafting down the Colorado River is short on her bucket list.
After the restoration of Winters Putah Creek Park, wildlife biologists first found California black toads in the creek. Marovich said they had to be there from the start, but who knew.