Sun 7 Sep 2014
Nowhere is the effect of the ongoing drought more dramatic than at Nicasio Reservoir, which is currently only half full. According to Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD) which owns the reservoir, West Marin is in its ninth drought since 1975. At least as measured on Mount Tamalpais.
MMWD, however, is not yet hurting for water. Its seven reservoirs together are still 92 percent full thanks to late-spring rains.
Nicasio Reservoir is so low because the district is steadily drawing on it to supply the San Geronimo Valley treatment plant while leaving as much water as possible in its other reservoirs, which are slower to fill. These include Lagunitas, Phoenix, Alpine, Bon Tempe, Kent, and Soulajule.
Today’s Nicasio Valley Road can be seen to the left of the low-lying old Nicasio Valley Road. This photo of Nicasio Reservoir was taken in 2009 when the water level was also dropping.
Nicasio Reservoir was created by the erection of Seeger Dam in 1961. The new reservoir flooded a number of longtime ranches and inundated the north end of Nicasio Valley Road, which had to be relocated to higher ground (as seen at left).
When the water level dropped this year, thousands of freshwater clams were left stranded and easy prey for various creatures.
Among the creatures currently scavenging on the reservoir’s increasingly exposed bottom are daily flocks of Canada geese.
The old Nicasio Valley Road and its bridge often remain submerged for several years at a time. These days they are high and dry, far from the water’s edge.
Even the centerline on the usually flooded old road is visible in many places now that the water level has dropped.
Creation of the reservoir in 1961 also necessitated relocating a large section of the Point Reyes-Petaluma Road, a project that cost more than acquiring land and building a dam.
A relic of a mishap that occurred during the construction of today’s roadway can still be found half-hidden in fennel and Andean grass on the south side of the Point Reyes-Petaluma Road between Platform Bridge and Seeger Dam.
It’s easy to overlook this rusted steel bar sticking out of a basalt roadcut about 50 yards downhill from Laurel Canyon Road, but according to oldtimers there is a curious history behind it.
As part of blasting through the rock 55 years ago, the road builders one day were drilling a hole for some explosives when their drill shaft broke. Removing it would have required considerable work, so they merely cut off the top and left the bent shaft sticking up beside the road where it can still be seen.
I first heard this account from an oldtimer I knew decades ago, and today I asked Pete Maendle of Inverness Park if it was accurate. Pete is the senior road maintenance supervisor in West Marin for the country Department of Public Works, and he said he had heard the same thing from oldtimers in his department.
So see if you can spot the broken drill shaft the next time you drive slowly by. It’s easy to miss because of all the vegetation around it, but it’s a relic of an historical mishap.