For Immediate Release –
San Rafael, CA –
County conducted annual maintenance work ahead of potentially wet winter
The intense rainstorms that hit Marin in January 2023 caused significant impacts across the county. The breadth of the damage caused by the storms, also known as atmospheric rivers, spurred the Marin County Board of Supervisors to declare a local state of emergency.
With this year’s El Niño forecast, Marin County Department of Public Works (DPW) and its contracted agencies, such as cities and towns, have been working to complete the preventative maintenance work necessary to prepare for the potential wet winter ahead. Public safety is the primary goal for DPW staff, and a prime example of that effort is the department’s commitment to storm season preparations every year. The preparations are usually completed by fall and cover a wide range of work on storm drain systems, creeks, levees, tide gates, pump stations, culverts and roads.
Tasked with storm preparation responsibilities in parts of Marin, the Marin County Flood Control and Water Conservation District identifies issues and manages infrastructure in eight flood control zones across the county. The zones do not cover the entire county and are, for the most part, concentrated in the county’s urbanized eastern corridor. Within those zones, the District oversees 18 creeks with more than 37 miles of creek beds and channels, over 14 miles of levees and berms, about 1.3 miles of floodwalls, 44 permanent pumps, eight portable pumps, and several stormwater basins.
Creek maintenance within designated flood zones is a major part of the overall storm season preparations and is conducted during the summer. The District works with local partners, such as the nonprofit Conservation Corps North Bay and municipal public works departments, to handle maintenance on 18 creeks across the eight watershed zones. Teams perform essential vegetation management along creek banks to maximize water flow capacity.
The District’s crews also inspect, maintain and repair levees as part of the seasonal protocol. Standard maintenance includes inspecting over 14 miles of levees and timber reinforced berms for weak points, fortifying with supportive material and filling rodent burrows to prevent leaks. This is conducted on levees in the areas of Richardson Bay, Ross Valley, Santa Venetia and Novato.
Each year, District staff and DPW Building Maintenance staff inspect 44 pumps housed across 17 pump stations to ensure that they are functioning at optimal efficiency. In addition to annual servicing, major maintenance procedures are performed for each pump on a six-year cycle, which includes full extraction and cleaning of the machinery. The pumps play an essential part in reducing flood risk for neighborhoods such as Tiburon’s Bel Aire, Strawberry Circle, Santa Venetia, lower Tamalpais Valley and Novato. The pumps transport stormwater from low-lying lands into creeks, facilitating natural water flow out to the San Francisco and San Pablo bays. An additional pump station is currently being installed in the Granton Park neighborhood in Kentfield.
Roadway work, handled by DPW’s Road Maintenance Division, is an important part of storm season preparedness and requires a significant amount of time and resources due to the large scope of work. Annual practices include inspecting and cleaning roadside storm drains across unincorporated areas of the county. The cleaning process, called vactoring, is typically conducted in early fall and removes debris buildup, reducing the chances of drains becoming clogged during storms.
Additionally, there are hundreds of roadside drainage ditches along arterial and rural roads in unincorporated Marin, and those require the attention of the Road Maintenance Division crews. Upkeep on the ditches helps control stormwater flow and minimize roadside flooding and erosion. Hundreds of culverts, inlets and flow pipes are inspected and, if needed, cleared along County-maintained roads.
During and directly after storms, District and DPW crews check storm drains, trash racks, and pump stations to ensure that everything is operating effectively, addressing needs as they arise.
Residents are encouraged to take action on their own property to help reduce the risk of flooding. Before a storm, it is recommended that residents clear dead leaves from their driveway drains, rooftop gutters, and storm drains. Dead foliage should be disposed of in compost bins, not left in street gutters to clog drainage systems and cause neighborhood flooding. Those living in flood-prone areas should test their sump pumps and stock up on sandbags (available at most hardware stores) and learn how to properly use them[External] prior to storms. Additionally, ReadyMarin.org provides many detailed resources, including emergency “go-bag” packing checklists, that can be helpful for residents to prepare for the unexpected.
It is important for residents to sign up for the Alert Marin notification system to be aware of emergency situations. The service, provided by the Marin County Sheriff’s Office, provides the public with time-sensitive alerts targeted toward specific addresses or neighborhoods. Residents who have registered should review their contact information to make sure it is up to date. Alert Marin is different from the Nixle[External] notification service, which provides general safety announcements and/or post-disaster information.
Flood insurance is important for homeowners and renters alike, since standard insurance policies do not usually include flood damage. Even a few inches of water can result in thousands of dollars in repair and restoration costs. Marin County participates in the National Flood Insurance Program, which makes federally backed insurance[External] available for all homes, and provides a range of resources to help property owners make the best decisions for them. Residents who seek such coverage are encouraged to contact their insurance agency.
Public Information Officer
3501 Civic Center Drive.
San Rafael, CA 94903