San Rafael, CA – The Corte Madera Creek Flood Risk Management Project, which seeks to improve flood mitigation in the lower Ross Valley Watershed, may need to be redefined before moving forward. Ross Valley’s Zone 9 Advisory Board will hold a meeting March 19 to discuss the circumstances that may require a change in direction for the project.
Stormwater rushes over a fish ladder on Corte Madera Creek on February 26, 2019.
The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. at Ross Town Hall, located at 31 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. Based on the decision of the Advisory Board, the Marin County Flood Control and Water Conservation District (Flood District) could reevaluate the local aspects of the project and continue with a locally managed and funded project, separate from the existing management by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).
The original project’s draft Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (EIS/EIR) was released October 12, 2018, for public review. During the 45-day public review period, which ended November 27, approximately 65 public comments were received. The public comments revealed the need for additional analysis of the proposed alternatives to ensure that the comments are adequately addressed and maintain compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
To date, the Flood District’s Zone 9 and USACE evenly split the $3.8 million cost of the project feasibility study and EIS/EIR development through a cost-share agreement, which was necessary to determine whether federal funding could be pursued for the future construction effort. Following review of the draft EIS/EIR public comments, it was determined that the scope of additional analysis necessary to complete the feasibility study and produce a final EIS/EIR would exceed the terms of the agreement as well as the USACE’s authorized budget and schedule.
Due to congressional constraints and authorization requirements, USACE will not be able to extend its administrative time allotment and funding share that would be required to address the newly identified need for further analysis to ensure compliance with CEQA. In accordance with the terms of the agreement and Flood District procedures, it is necessary to bring a recommendation to the Zone 9 Advisory Board to close the USACE agreement. Following that action, the recommendation will be brought before the Flood District Board of Supervisors.
The Zone 9 Advisory Board will discuss the potential for a project reevaluation that would allow for a locally managed flood mitigation effort. The Flood District, in partnership with the Town of Ross, could pursue a focused project that supports integrated benefits such as flood risk mitigation, ecosystem restoration, improved fish passage for endangered species and recreational enhancements.
Those project elements were previously referred to as Phase 1 of the larger project with USACE, as described in the draft EIS/EIR. That includes the Ross fish ladder removal, Allen Park Riparian Corridor restoration and a Granton Park flood barrier. Any newly tailored project could also look at including additional restoration opportunities downstream of the original Phase 1 project area.
Funding for a reevaluated effort would come from the Zone 9 storm drainage fee fund and the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) grant held by the Flood District. District staff are working with DWR to determine the revised timeline for the grant and evaluating additional grant opportunities that might support additional downstream improvements.
With the locally managed project approach, the Flood Control District anticipates that progress could move at a faster rate than with federal oversight and approval processes. It could produce a project design and subsequent construction that is directly reflective of local community priorities as well.
District staff plans to use public input, additional evaluation of the Phase 1 project concept and the completed USACE draft EIS/EIR content to develop a redefined project concept, which is planned to be presented at the Zone 9 Advisory Board’s meeting in May 2019. Should a newly tailored project effort be considered, a public scoping meeting for it would take place this summer in accordance with CEQA guidelines.
The Flood District will continue to work with USACE to obtain permits and approval for an eventual project and will explore other federal programs that could support flood mitigation and locally integrated benefits in the future.