River otters, frogs, ducks, and falcons: Northern California’s Arcata Marsh teems with life. This idyllic habitat helps to filters sewage. It exists because of a citizen uprising against high-tech, energy-intensive sewage treatment systems mandated in the early years of the Clean Water Act. Powered by sun and wind, Arcata’s pioneering project has inspired treatment wetlands worldwide, from Arizona to Saipan.
Local science writer Sharon Levy penned “The Marsh Builders: The Fight for Clean Water, Wetlands, and Wildlife.” Published by Oxford University Press, the book delves into the global roots of Arcata’s quirky story, as well as lessons for modern activists and regulators.
After a book release party at the Arcata Community Center on Friday, June 8 at 5 p.m., Sharon, a Friends of the Arcata Marsh (FOAM) tour leader since 1994, will collaborate with session panelists on a special 2-hour Marsh tour on Saturday, June 9, starting at 2 p.m. The free tour departs from the Interpretive Center, located at 569 South G Street.
Sharon’s writing focuses on ecology and conservation. Her work has appeared in Undark, BioScience, Nature, and other magazines, covering everything from the impact of climate change on the cholera bacterium, to the causes of the mastodon’s extinction. She is also the author of “Once and Future Giants: What Ice Age Extinctions Can Tell Us About the Fate of Earth’s Largest Animals,” published by Oxford in 2011.
“The Marsh Builders” goes beyond the creation of the Arcata Marsh to discuss why wetland destruction was long seen as a triumph and obstacle to marsh restoration, the evolution of sewage treatment, the long political and scientific struggle for clean water in the United States, and impacts of water pollution on wildlife and using treatment wetlands as habitat. The book will appeal to readers interested in the history of science and the environment, as well as the ongoing struggle to reclaim polluted waters.
This year also marks 25 years since the dedication of the Arcata Marsh Interpretive Center. Join FOAM and the City of Arcata on June 8 and 9 to celebrate!