In this photo, the confluence of the north and south forks of Gallinas Creek.
Not too long ago Santa Venetia was a large tidal marsh. It became one of the first developments in the county to be constructed on fill over bay mud, which occurred in an era before the county had the authority to regulate or control development. Due to the low initial elevation of the fill and the compressible nature of the underlying bay mud, much of the area sank below sea level after construction was complete.
Flood Control Zone No. 7 (Zone 7) was formed in 1962 to help protect Santa Venetians from flooding. Since its creation Zone 7 has constructed five pump stations, a system of levees, various other flood control facilities, and conducts an annual maintenance program for these facilities. Zone 7 residents have approved several flood control tax measures over the years to support these activities.
Questions and Answers
Question: Why was Zone 7 created?
Answer: Zone 7 was created to raise and/or use local funds for specialized flood control facilities in Santa Venetia. Each flood zone in the county (there are eight of them) was formed to pay for their own infrastructure, which offers protection against flooding. Zone 7 receives a portion of regular annual property taxes and can receive supplemental funding for specific projects through the passage of special tax measures.
Question: Have Zone 7 voters ever passed special taxes?
Answer: From 1982 to 2003 various special (i.e., supplementary) taxes have been approved by Zone 7 voters. The last special tax approved by voters funded the complete reconstruction of Pump Station No. 1. Residences voted to assess themselves $265 per year for a period of six years.
Question: Does Santa Venetia have a watershed program?
Answer: Yes. Las Gallinas Creek watershed is part of the County’s watershed program. Existing conditions information and maps of the watershed can be found on this website. Close to thirty jurisdictions have responsibility over Las Gallinas Creek. The watershed approach has emerged as the preferred method to integrate flood enhancement with environmental restoration, especially in areas of high ecological sensitivity such as lower Las Gallinas Creek. The County’s watershed program has had a staggered start. Initial efforts began in Ross Valley following the 2005-06 floods and then moved to Southern Marin, Stinson Beach, Miller Creek, Gallinas Creek, and Novato watersheds. Staff will be meeting with potential partners over the next six to eight months to assess the level of support and commitment for this approach. This is the only activity currently scheduled for this watershed. Watershed specific studies will not be initiated until we obtain funding commitments and support for the watershed approach. If we are successful in securing commitments to implement the watershed approach, we would implement a stakeholder process and being work to scope a study that identifies a suite of alternatives to support an integrated approach to flood protection and habitat restoration.
Question: Why am I required to purchase flood insurance?
Answer: Flood insurance requirements are specified by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). For detailed information, please refer to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) website. For your convenience, provided below is a brief description of some aspects of the program as we understand them.
Federal regulations require anyone who has a federally insured mortgage to carry flood insurance on their home if it is located within a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). These are areas that are, according to FEMA, at a high-risk of flooding. Nearly all of Santa Venetia east of Meadow Way and north of N. San Pedro Rd. is considered a SFHA. Flood insurance in a SFHA is made available through common insurance carriers like GEICO, Nationwide, etc. as part of the NFIP.
Common questions concerning flood insurance purchased through the NFIP include: 1) how the flood insurance requirement can be waived, and 2) how flood insurance premiums can be reduced. Though the specific polices and regulations surrounding these questions are quite complex, some generalizations can be made to help explain basic concepts. More specific information should be obtained by contacting FEMA directly. Their guide Answers to Questions About the NFIP, available online at http://www.fema.gov/business/nfip/qanda.shtm, is particularly helpful.
Waiving Insurance Requirements
Before insurance requirements can be waived and an area removed from a SFHA, flood protection projects must first be built and certified according to a number of very specific FEMA standards. Once these conditions are met and mandatory insurance requirements have been waived, flood protection projects must still be operated and maintained according to FEMA standards in order for the community to continue to be outside of a SFHA.
The existing Santa Venetia levee system would require considerable improvement before it could be certified by FEMA and the community removed from the SFHA. Zone 7 (along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) is currently studying a number of levee and facility improvement alternatives. Some of the alternatives being considered are designed to meet FEMA levee standards. However, no change in insurance requirements would be realized until these and other projects are funded, built, and their performance verified according to FEMA standards.
Having a certified levee does not mean that flood risk has been removed- it has only been reduced. The purchase of flood insurance is still recommended in areas protected by a certified levee; however, the premiums for these areas can be over 75% less than the cost for areas not protected by a certified levee.
Reducing Insurance Premiums
The NFIP’s Community Rating Systerm (CRS) has been developed to provide incentives in the form of discounts on insurance premiums for communities who go beyond minimum floodplain management requirements and develop extra flood protection measures. Recognized measures include public information, mapping and regulations, flood damage reduction, and flood preparedness.
The discount amount varies depending on the number of measures taken, but typically ranges between 5% and 20%. In order to receive the discount, all measures taken by a community must first be documented, submitted to, and certified by FEMA on an ongoing basis.
In the case of Marin county, “community” is defined as all unincorporated areas of the county. In practice this means that flood protection measures put in place in one area of the county benefits all areas. Therefore, in many cases, in order to receive full credit towards a discount for an area such as Santa Venetia, an action must first be carried out across the entire unincorporated county. While partial credit for a measure is possible, it would likely not be enough to earn the necessary number of credits to receive a discount.
All CRS creditable actions are weighted to reflect the impact of any project or action on the entire “community” (i.e., all FEMA floodplains in the unincorporated county). Santa Venetia is one of seven major areas with a FEMA SFHA floodplain. Efforts in Santa Venetia would only receive a pro-rated number of points, which alone would likely not be sufficient to reduce premiums. One of the goals of the Marin County Watershed Program is to establish the CRS countywide.