County of Marin - News Releases - Hazard Mitigation

For Immediate Release
July 30, 2020

Feds Boost Marin’s Ability to Protect Lives, Property

$250,000 grant to go toward local disaster prevention

San Rafael, CA – Whenever Marin County is under imminent threat of a natural disaster or has been unlucky enough to fall victim, emergency plans are deployed to help save lives and property. In addition to those vital steps, there is another plan designed to proactively reduce the impacts of natural disasters through projects and regulations that improve public safety.

Two workers in hardhats clean brush from a creekbed.The next Local Hazard Mitigation Plan will outline plans for disaster prevention, including debris clearing in creekbeds.
That’s what the Marin County Multi-Jurisdictional Local Hazard Mitigation Plan (LHMP) is all about. In the best case, problems are identified so they can be avoided or minimized before they cause damage and destruction.

Local emergency planners recently received a boost when the Board of Supervisors accepted a $250,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to enhance the process for the next LHMP update. The funding will be split between the Marin County Community Development Agency (CDA), the Marin County Fire Department, and the Marin County Department of Public Works.

Required by law, the LHMP was first installed in 2006 and must be updated every five years. Having an LHMP in place makes Marin County eligible for federal emergency relief and disaster mitigation funding in the aftermath of a disaster. The next iteration of the LHMP will include more robust wildfire, flood loss and sea level rise analyses, and outline plans for helping elevate homes in low-lying areas, drainage and berm improvements, seismic retrofitting, and methods to prevent infrastructure failure.

“This grant will further strengthen a unified countywide approach to hazard mitigation, something most counties in California do not have,” said CDA Planning Manager Jack Liebster. “It will also empower us to help prevent and avoid disastrous consequences, not just plan for the aftermath.”

After each disaster statewide, more funding becomes available to qualified counties to reduce disaster impacts in the future. The 2015 wildfires in Butte and Lake counties resulted in funding for a new Marin pilot program to elevate homes in floodplains. The 2017 Oroville Dam spillway crisis led to funding for levee upgrades in the bayside Santa Venetia area of unincorporated San Rafael. The 2018 wildfires and mudslides in Santa Barbara are providing funding for seismic retrofits at Marin Center.

The 2017 North Bay Wildfires presented a close-to-home case in point for hazard mitigation planners. The 2018 version of the LHMP was being finalized in the months after the fires, and it wasn’t possible to incorporate fresh lessons learned from that event. Still, just having an LHMP in place led to FEMA funding being available for preliminary work on flood improvements in Marin City. The updated LHMP will include lessons learned from those fatal and devastating blazes in Sonoma and Napa counties plus Marin’s assistance to those who fled.

The Marin LHMP team included participation from each town and city in the county. Thomas Jordan, a coordinator with the Marin County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services, said that type of teamwork is rare.

“Most County LHMPs are not as holistic,” he said. “Our collaborative approach not only avoids ‘swiss cheese planning’ at the operational area level of local government, but it opens up opportunities to do more multi-jurisdictional projects. Those are critical because hazards do not respect city and town borders. Because of the economic uncertainty we face due to the COVID-19 pandemic, coordination between jurisdictions is needed more than ever.”


Jack Liebster
Planning Manager
Community Development Agency

3501 Civic Center Drive
Suite 308
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-6278
Email: Jack Liebster
Community Development website