Stewardship

Gallagher North Bend Ranch Great Water Giveaway

December 13, 2021

The Gallagher North Bend Ranch, named for the bend of Lagunitas Creek that runs through it, comprises 337 acres in the shadow of Black Mountain, just outside of Point Reyes Station. The Gallagher family—fourth-generation West Marin ranchers—graze beef cattle on the grassy hillsides and grow silage in the lowland fields.

A single bridge over Lagunitas Creek provides access to the ranch, which has been protected with a MALT agricultural conservation easement since 2016. By the end of Winter 2019, it was clear that the integrity of the bridge was being threatened by the erosion of the creek bank. To help re-engineer and restore the creek bank to support the bridge, the Gallagher family sought help from MALT’s Stewardship Assistant Program (SAP)—which provides conservation planning expertise and funding to farmers and ranchers on MALT-protected farmland—and Drew McIntyre of North Marin Water District, who was the project manager and engineer of the Stream bank stabilization effort. 

“This was a complex project,” said Paul Gallagher, who owns the ranch with his brother Kevin. “The engineering and planning phase alone took a year, and the construction phase was very nature-guided. Everyone was very careful to make sure the sensitive creek and riparian habitats weren’t disrupted, including the birds nesting along the creek and the fish in a nearby pond.”

The reengineered bank now maintains safe access to the ranch headquarters, pasture land, and to the home that Kevin Gallagher shares with his wife, Katie.

Almost as soon as the project was completed, the Gallaghers learned they would need to run county-mandated testing of a well on their property, which entailed running it continuously for 10 days.

“At 150 gallons per minute, that meant we’d have nearly 2.2 million gallons to put somewhere—more than our lowland fields could absorb,” said Katie Gallagher. “And given the drought we’re all experiencing, we thought it was a travesty to just waste that much water.”

Their solution? Load as much of the well water into a large holding tank and invite neighbors to truck it away. This was made possible with the help of NMWD and Marin County Ag Commissioner-Stefan Parnay, who coordinated with the local ranchers and farmers that had the necessary water tank capacity to help haul out the water. 

So, for 10 days, local ranchers and farmers drove their water trucks—limited to 2000-gallon sizes to protect the stabilized the Gallagher ranch bridge—to load up with well water and take it back to their own parched lands.

A handful of neighboring ranchers sent trucks to collect water. Others, however, had trucks that didn’t meet the size restrictions necessary to preserve the integrity of the Gallagher’s bridge. One rancher responded by sending his water truck and driver to pick up and deliver water to neighbors who weren’t able to use their own trucks.

What a wonderful extension of the spirit of the great water giveaway at the Gallagher ranch.