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Washing the Waters

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A high-school environmental group in Petaluma, Calif., received a national conservation award last week for its efforts to bring a "dead" creek back to life.

The 30-member United Anglers of Casa Grande High School began a cleanup of Adobe Creek five years ago. Students hauled away 20 truckloads of old refrigerators, grocery carts, tires, and other trash. They also planted hundreds of redwood trees to shade the river and keep its water cool.

Two years ago, just as the students were opening a fish hatchery in an abandoned greenhouse, four large king salmon were spotted entering Adobe Creek to spawn--the first to be recorded this century.

The salmon have been followed by migrations of steelhead, many of which were released by the students.

Local fish and game officials have encouraged the students to clean other creeks in the Petaluma River Basin as well.

But the students still face challenges. They need to raise $236,000 to replace their hatchery, which was shut down for not meeting earthquake-safety standards. And fish eggs cannot survive in the Adobe Creek because it runs dry every year--largely because the city of Petaluma uses it for drinking water.

Undaunted, the students plan next year to foray into the tough world of California water politics to get the city to stop diverting the stream, said Thomas P. Furrer, a natural-resources teacher at the school.

"Their generation is frustrated," Mr. Furrer said. "They see endangered-species numbers increasing at a rapid rate, they hear the older generation talking about what they had, and they say, 'What's left for us?"'

The group was honored by a conservation-awards program sponsored by the Chevron Corporation.

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