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County Reviews Ross Flood Control Plan

July 22, 2008

By @byline Rob Rogers, The Marin Independent Journal, Novato, Calif.

Jul. 22–County officials believe they can reduce the flood danger of Corte Madera Creek by building a better fish ladder.

The county is reviewing an Army Corps of Engineers’ plan to demolish and replace a wooden fish ladder about 600 feet downstream from the Lagunitas Bridge in Ross that acts as a choke point for flood waters.

Army officials say the project — which could include raising the walls of the concrete flood channels downstream from Sir Francis Drake Boulevard — is the least they could do to funnel flood waters away from homes in Kentfield and Ross.

“The town (Ross) and county have specifically asked us to achieve something less than” a 100-year flood, said Jim Miller, project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers San Francisco District. “We’re not preparing for a hundred-year flow at this point.”

But Marin leaders say that could be enough — provided they’re able to complete a series of detention basins and other flood control projects upstream of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. The county’s projects have been put on hold as a result of a legal challenge of the tax that would pay for the effort.

“Hopefully if there are two or three areas where a significant amount of water can be held up (in the Ross Valley), it will not require the Corps to do anything that might be considered obtrusive by the environmental community,” said Supervisor Hal Brown.

In the past, environmental leaders and other residents have opposed any widening of the concrete

channels in Kentfield and Ross. But Anne Petersen of the Kentfield Planning Advisory Board believes the New Year’s Eve Flood in 2005 has persuaded some residents to consider the change.

“I think there will be definite concern about building the walls up higher,” Petersen said. “But people experienced the flood in 2005, and that kind of woke people up. I think people are going to be more willing to deal with some of the realities of having to do some work in the Kentfield area.”

Other possibilities for the area include using plants to stabilize the banks along both sides of the flood channel and buying homes that sit within the flood plain.

“Our long-term goal, 50 or 60 years down the road, would be to acquire enough property along the creek to restore a natural channel,” said Sandra Guldman, president of the Friends of the Corte Madera Creek Watershed. “However, we don’t feel that is probably either physically or fiscally feasible right now. So what we’d like to see is the fish passage improved and the riparian habitat protected.”

Guldman and Flood Mitigation League President Lise Stampfli Torme said improvements to the existing channels are preferable to their expansion.

“No one is suggesting that the concrete channel extend up into San Anselmo and Fairfax, as was suggested in the past,” Stampfli Torme said. “So I don’t think you’re going to get a lot of opposition. We just want to see good engineering used to give us the highest level of protection we can get.”

Army engineers believe they can increase the amount of water flowing through the flood channels from the existing rate of 3,200 cubic feet per second to about 4,000 cubic feet per second if the fish ladder is replaced and as much as 5,400 cubic feet per second if the channel is enlarged.

Should Congress approve the project, the federal government would pick up about 65 percent of the tab, with the rest coming from state and county sources, Miller said.

“Congress has been very forthcoming in funding this project year after year,” Miller said. “We’d hope to see this funded quickly when it comes up.”

The Army Corps of Engineers will seek public comment on an environmental impact report on the Corte Madera Creek flood control project at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Drakes Landing Community Room, 300 Drakes Landing Road in Greenbrae. For more information, call 499-3051.

Read more Ross, Kentfield & Greenbrae stories at the IJ’s Ross, Kentfield & Greenbrae section.

Contact Rob Rogers via e-mail at rrogers@marinij.com

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