County of Marin - News Releases - State of Emergency

For Immediate Release
December 22, 2014

State’s Declaration of Emergency Helps Marin

Governor’s action allows four counties to seek financial relief for road repairs

San Rafael, CA – California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency Monday to help pay for damage to four counties that sustained major road damage from recent storms, including Marin County.

The Governor’s declaration for Marin, San Mateo, Mendocino and Ventura counties facilitates the availability emergency relief funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to help the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) cover the costs of repairing roads damaged by flash floods and related mudslides throughout the state in recent weeks.

The Marin County Board of Supervisors voted to proclaim a local state of emergency December 16 because of the severe impact of recent storms that began December 10, including levee breaches in Novato on December 11 and damage to several County-maintained roads. The local declaration allowed the County to apply for state and federal aid to help pay for repairs, and the state declaration Monday launches procedural steps to create the possibility for that to happen.

Marin residents who suffered storm-related losses must wait for the state’s response to the County’s damage assessment to see if they are eligible for state or federal financial relief. In a letter to the state Office of Emergency Services, Marin County Administrator Matthew Hymel requested recovery and response reimbursement funding be made available to the County for public and individual assistance.

Individual assistance is only available if the federal government declares a major disaster, and the threshold is often determined by the estimated costs of damage and repairs. A state emergency services spokesman said there is a very low likelihood of a federal declaration in the wake of the December 10-11 storm given the initial estimates of damage statewide. However, some Marin residents may be available for tax relief if they have sustained $10,000 or more worth of storm-related damage.

The December 10-11 storm caused significant wind-driven rain damage, high-tide damage and flooding that affected County-maintained roads as well. According to the Marin County Department of Public Works (DPW), the three largest problems were at the location of a landslide on Tennessee Valley Road near Tam Junction and unincorporated Mill Valley, a section Muir Woods Road (also known as Frank’s Valley Road by locals) between Muir Beach and Mount Tamalpais, and an eight-mile section of Fairfax-Bolinas Road.

Although Tennessee Valley Road is County-maintained, the chunk of land that slid onto the road – roughly 100 feet by 50 feet – is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and under federal jurisdiction. Marin DPW said the slide was prompted by a drainage project that diverted water down a slope toward the road and that the diversion has since been corrected. DPW crews blocked the road to traffic just after the storm and planned to reopen it at some time on December 22.

The slide on Muir Woods Road is about halfway between Muir Beach and the main entrance to Muir Woods National Monument. Muir Woods Road is experiencing a high volume of traffic since the storm because of a washout and closure of Highway 1 about halfway between Mill Valley and Muir Beach, and engineers believe it is vulnerable to further erosion. The Highway 1 washout is under the jurisdiction of the California Department of Transportation, or Caltrans. The Fairfax-Bolinas Road problems were limited to clearing of trees and debris after the storm.

Marin sought financial assistance December 16 after estimates reached up to $1 million to take emergency stabilization measures and plan for final repairs on a damaged levee in Novato. A 20-foot-wide section of the levee along Novato Creek was intentionally breached during the storm as an emergency measure to direct water away from downtown businesses and nearby subdivisions. The levee is maintained by the Marin County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, which contracted out for a temporary repair after the storm.

Emergency stabilization measures for that section of the Novato levee were estimated to cost $90,000, and intermediate stabilization measures should cost an additional $100,000. Final repair costs are estimated at an additional $800,000. The governor’s declaration Monday only pertained to road damage, so the County will await word on financial relief for the levee repairs.

South of the intentional levee breach, an offset levee on the southwest side of creek sustained a structural failure during the storm. That levee was built in the late 1980s with funding from a local tax measure. The flood control district maintains the levee through an agreement with the State Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The Marin County Sheriff-Coroner’s Office is coordinating with the state Office of Emergency Services and the Governor’s Office to include Marin in the state’s estimates of damage statewide. County Department of Finance staff is working on the initial damage estimate, incorporating reports from Marin’s cities and towns, to forward to the state for consideration of reimbursement from the state and federal government.

State law dictates that a governing body that has declared a local state of emergency shall review the need for continuing the local emergency at least once every 30 days. The first review is scheduled for the January 13, 2015, meeting of the Board of Supervisors.


Christopher Reilly
Office of Emergency Services

Emergency Operations Facility
1600 Los Gamos Drive
Suite 200
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-6584
Email: Christopher Reilly
OES website