Marin IJ

Hal Brown: Time for progress, not excuses

Hal Brown
Marin Independent Journal
Article Launched:02/09/2007 12:04:40 AM PST

ON SATURDAY, Feb. 10, 2006, Marin County Flood Control engineers addressed a crowded meeting at Sir Francis Drake High School.

Using modern GIS mapping techniques, engineers clearly showed how the geography of the Ross Valley, the extent of development in our flood plain and the natural, immutable facts about our soils, slopes and creek sizes (our watershed), when combined with a big tropical Pacific storm, create flooding in the area.

As we looked at the Ross Valley, with the big picture so graphically displayed for us that day, it was obvious that the flooding problems in Kentfield and Larkspur are inextricably linked to the problems in San Anselmo, Ross and Fairfax. Clearly, only by defining the problem as "watershed-wide" would we be able to move forward with finding solutions.

The clearest message, however, from that meeting was that the public is tired of hearing endless arguments over the history of the problems. A new generation of Ross Valley residents spoke loud and clear, demanding that we stop living in the past.

They are right.

We could spend countless hours quibbling over the past and pointing fingers at who made what mistake and when. Or, we can take the advice of all those residents, work together and make progress.

Last March, county flood control staff and I launched a process that has involved key stakeholders throughout the Ross Valley - those in positions to uphold the interests and aspirations of those dedicated to improving and restoring the riparian habitat of Corte Madera Creek, those looking to protect their properties from future flood damage, those who desire a judicious use of engineering and construction to balance flood protection and the aesthetic and environmental sensibilities of Ross Valley residents.

Volunteers from the Friends of Corte Madera Creek, the Flood Mitigation League of the Ross Valley and the Coalition for Corte Madera Creek sought grants, measured high water marks and offered the best of their experience and background to the effort.

Public servants, members of the town councils of San Anselmo, Fairfax, Larkspur and Ross and the Flood Control Zone 9 Advisory Board, met to find a way forward.

A financial working group met regularly with expert consultants to find answers to financial questions.

Engineers and scientists from the towns and the county, local environmental advocate, representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers, Regional Water Quality Control Board,state Fish and Game and California Coastal Conservancy and private consultants met monthly to find the technical answers to this problem.

The public was correct a year ago when we first met at Drake High. The need to make progress far outweighs our tendency to revisit the past. Yes, each town has unique problems and concerns, and all have to be heard, considered and acted upon. Flood Zone 9 has been hamstrung for 35 years by low revenues, lack of support and regional discord. Times have changed. There now is a willingness, even an urgency, to move forward together.

Residents have let us know they are willing to contribute to an effort that balances flood mitigation efforts with environmental preservation, restoration and enhancement. This process must include a dedication to honoring local concerns as we identify problems and propose solutions.

Together, and with the support of a voter-approved drainage system fee, we can pursue tens of millions of dollars in state and federal funding, and accomplish through regional, watershed-wide planning what would otherwise be financially and politically impossible.

The message we heard one year ago was a demand from residents to join together and begin to make progress. I am proud to have led an effort that has been marked by great cooperation. This level of cooperation and collaboration must continue.

The road to alleviating flooding in the Ross Valley is a long one. Operating from a unified stance is not only essential, it is the most integral and fundamental ingredient to making real progress for the entire valley.

Hal Brown represents the Second District, which includes the Ross Valley, on the Marin County Board of Supervisors. He lives in Sleepy Hollow.


The third Ross Valley Watershed Community workshop will be Saturday at Sir Francis Drake High School from 9:30 a.m. to noon.
Hub Law Offices 711 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, San Anselmo, California 94960-1949 415-258-0360