Biologist best known for role in blocking nuclear power plant on Bodega Head

  • Marine biologist Joel Hedgepeth.

Joel Hedgpeth, a colorful marine scientist who helped stop a nuclear power plant in Bodega Bay, died Friday at his daughter's home in Hillsboro, Ore.

A longtime Santa Rosa resident, Hedgpeth, 94, was suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

During his long career, Hedgpeth edited an influential treatise on marine biology and studied West Coast marine life.

He was a friend of Ed Ricketts, the Monterey Bay marine biologist who was the inspiration for Doc in John Steinbeck's novels "Cannery Row" and "Sweet Thursday," and became acquainted with Steinbeck himself.

But in Sonoma County, Hedgpeth probably was best known for his role in blocking PG&E's plan to build a nuclear power plant on Bodega Head in the mid-1960s.

"He represented the other science, the biological side of the whole thing," Petaluma environmental activist Bill Kortum said.

Colleagues called Hedgpeth a mentor and a scientist who helped set the course for West Coast marine biology.

"He really was an outstanding marine biologist and an inspiration to a lot of marine biologists, including myself," said Susan Williams, director of the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory. "Joel was charismatic and an exceptional writer and speaker."

"He was an extremely intelligent person, a gifted writer, attentive to details and widely read," said Steve Obrebski, a friend and former student who is now an adjunct professor at San Francisco State. "He was generalist of the first order, he was a guy with a sharp intellect, and that was what he was admired for."

Warren Hedgpeth, a Santa Rosa architect, called his father "a romanticist and a renaissance man."

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