Marin IJ

Flood campaign picking up steam

Marin Independent Journal
Article Launched:02/15/2007 12:08:42 AM PST

THE PROGRESS on flood control efforts in the Ross Valley is encouraging.

We commend the Fairfax Town Council for voting to rejoin Flood Zone 9, the district that will orchestrate the major projects needed to significantly reduce the risk of major flooding in the Ross Valley. Fairfax leaders were concerned about not having final say over projects in Fairfax, but ultimately decided the town needed to be part of this effort.

That was the right thing to do. It also reinforces the message that this important issue is regional in scope.

San Anselmo, Ross, Larkspur, Greenbrae and Kentfield also are part of the flood district and have agreed to participate without having veto power over their areas. All will have a say in what flood control measures are proposed and ultimately approved.

The other promising development was a study that identified the worst bottlenecks on Corte Madera Creek.

Engineering consultants used a hydraulic computer model of the watershed to pinpoint the culprits. The usual flooding suspects made the list, including two Ross sites, the Lagunitas Road Bridge and the nearby wooden fish ladder. The spots were joined at the top of the list by the Madrone Avenue Bridge in San Anselmo.

Some officials were surprised by how big a bottleneck the fish ladder creates. There are now plans to replace the fish ladder. The Army Corps of Engineers is waiting for recommendations from one of the environmental groups involved in the discussions, the Friends of Corte Madera Watershed.

This is the kind of solid information that will help build the consensus crucial to real solutions. Supervisor Hal Brown was right when he pointed out that the study's findings will play a key role in deciding how taxpayer money will be spent.

Brown deserves credit for keeping this issue moving forward. That momentum is essential because the county and the flood control district plan to ask Ross Valley voters to approve a new storm drainage fee, which could be on the April ballot.

Most property owners would be asked to pay an average of $125 a year for 20 years, with some paying a maximum of $180. The fee will vary, depending on the size of the lot and the amount of impervious surfaces on the property.

If all cities and agencies involved can put past differences aside and work together on regional solutions to flooding, voters are far more likely to vote "yes."

The flooding the morning of New Year's Eve in 2005 damaged 1,200 homes and businesses in the county, with most along Corte Madera Creek in the Ross Valley.

The periods of heavy rain this week were a pointed reminder of how vulnerable the Ross Valley is - and how much work remains to be done.
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