More than 200 Ross Valley residents braved
the rain Saturday morning to
hear about projects to eliminate creek flooding - and an annual tax to
pay for them.
The session featured an hour-long
explanation by county project manager
Jack Curley, who showed slides of the trouble spots, explained data
from a new hydraulic model, and outlined projects that, in theory,
would stop another "100-year flood" from inundating the Ross Valley.
"These solutions, according to our models,
would have eliminated last
year's event," Curley said of the Dec. 31, 2005, storm that devastated
downtown San Anselmo.
Of the dozen or so people who spoke
afterward, a woman suggested
tweaking the proposed tax to make large property owners bear a bigger
share of the cost, and a man proposed a fee for new development. Most
praised the thoroughness of the plan.
"You're headed on the right track," said
Roger Roberts of the Marin Conservation Corps.
The session, organized by Supervisor Hal
Brown, came three days after
Fairfax voted 4-1 to join Ross Valley's Flood Zone 9 following a
stand-off with county officials over the right to veto projects town
officials didn't like. The zone includes San Anselmo, Ross, Kentfield,
Greenbrae and Larkspur.
Although Fairfax's decision added an air of
unification to Saturday's event, Brown and others remained on the
"The longer we wait, the more expensive it
will be and the harder it
will be to get state and federal funds," Marin County Public Works
Director Farhad Mansourian said.
Curley spent considerable time detailing a
half dozen of the 16 "constriction" points that cause flooding.
They include a 500-foot culvert in Fairfax;
the Lagunitas Road Bridge
in Ross and a wooden fish ladder about 600 feet downstream from the
bridge; and, in San Anselmo, bridges at Madrone, Nokomis and Sycamore
He said reconfiguring the Fairfax culvert
and the four bridges, along
with replacing the wooden fish ladder with a stone ladder, would
provide enough water flow improvement so that, during a 100-year storm,
a couple catch basins in Fairfax could take care of the rest.
He said Lefty Gomez Park and White Hill
Middle School in Fairfax have enough space to hold the overflow.
But, he stressed the projects are
preliminary because water flow data
and computer modeling hasn't taken into account all of Fairfax, Sleepy
Hollow and a few surrounding areas.
"These will change when we do that," he said.
Dave Dickson, a Berkeley consultant who
worked on Napa's flood program
and presented the financial component of Saturday's workshop, said
Flood Zone 9 brings in $140,000 annually and that $660,000 kicked in
last year by local governments is already gone.
Regions that have solved nagging flood
problems have all created a dedicated, reliable funding source to pay
"That is what is needed here," he said.
Dickson touted a recent mail-in survey,
which indicated 67 percent of
the 1,500 responding Ross Valley property owners said they supported a
"storm drain user fee" proposal that officials say requires a simple
majority vote. No one discussed the Proposition 13 rule that special
taxes require a two-thirds majority vote.
He also explained how officials created a
formula that has four annual
"user fee" or parcel tax payment tiers ranging from $104 to $180
depending on the amount of impervious surfaces on a parcel.
A Ross Valley flood tax would generate $40
million over 20 years - when
it would sunset - and create opportunities for other low-interest loans
and grants that requiring matching funds, Dickson said.
Fairfax Mayor Larry Bragman, who cast the
lone dissenting vote on the
Town Council against joining the flood zone, called the project and
funding presentation "overwhelmingly impressive."
He said he remains skeptical that Fairfax
will receive a good return on
the tax. He said the Fairfax culvert isn't at the front of the line of
improvement proposals and it will likely require buying several
"That's a big project," he said.
Assemblyman Jared Huffman said project
managers have done an excellent
job figuring out what needs to be done and presenting a case to finance
repairs. That puts the plan in a good position for state and federal
money, he said.
"I'm very excited by this," Huffman said.