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MIJ: Political sparks fly over Novato trestle’s role in flooding
Friday 1 Feb 2008, 12:15
Filed under: NCRA, Railroad | Tags: ,

Ummm replacing the trestle with another “new trestle” won’t help. Replacing it with a bridge as well as raising it will help, which Novato likes to block just so it can complain about the railroad. Wait a minute, another Novato public works claims dredging doesn’t help because of high tides, but if you look below,one of the suggests doing the same thing for this one. Which is it? On no, here you have the very same thing NCJ loves to complain the NCRA of doing, telling one group one thing, and another group another.

Marin County dredges the creek roughly every four years, and it planning to do so this summer, said Bob Beaumont, Chief Assistant Public Works Director for Marin County.

“The problem there is not the dredging. You get a slight amount of additional capacity with dredging,” he said. The benefit of lowering the creek bottom by dredging is negated during high tide, he said.

Origional article.

Brad Breithaupt

The North Coast Railroad Authority says crews risked their lives to clear debris from the Novato Creek trestle. Bristling about being blamed for flooding in Novato, North Coast Railroad Authority officials fired back Wednesday, claiming their crews risked their lives to try to reduce damage during Friday’s deluge. Marin County Supervisor Judy Arnold on Tuesday blamed the rail authority’s bridge over Novato Creek for creating a dam that backed up the creek, flooding city roads.

“This is the continuing problem because of the bridge,” she said, saying Friday’s flooding “was the highest I’ve ever seen.”

“We have to come in to break the levee. Otherwise, all of Novato gets flooded,” said Arnold, who has been critical of the agency’s plans to revive freight service in town.

But the rail agency contends it saved the day, adding that a city lawsuit against the agency is holding up its plans to raise the bridge.

Many of the homes in the Nave Gardens neighborhood, an area between Novato Boulevard and Novato Creek, were flooded in Friday’s deluge. Since then, political sparks have been flying.

Rail authority General Manager Mitch Stogner said Arnold and other politicians are pointing fingers in the wrong direction.

Novato’s lawsuit, which the county has endorsed, is stopping the regional rail agency from raising the 100-foot-long

bridge. “We could greatly reduce these sorts of incidents and that’s a fact,” said Stogner, head of the Ukiah-based agency.

The agency began work to lift the bridge by about a foot, but the job was stopped by Novato’s lawsuit.

Stogner said county workers on the scene Friday were appreciative that the rail crew was on hand with equipment to breach the levee, which let flood water recede.

“The Marin public works guys were very, very grateful for what we did,” he said. “It’s really unfair

A small amount of debris sits Wednesday under a railroad crossing over Novato Creek. (IJ photo/Alan Dep)

for anyone to suggest we weren’t Johnny-on-the-spot,” he said. “The City Council and the Board of Supervisors have an agenda.”

“They are so full of it,” responded county Public Works Director Farhad Mansourian.

He said the county has asked the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit district and the rail agency to do a better job of maintaining clearance under the bridge.

“This has been going on for years,” he said. “The problem is that trestle acts like a big, giant trash rack.”

Novato City Manager Dan Keen called NCRA’s contention “absolutely preposterous.” He said the rail agency has known of the problem the trestle poses for years and has had ample time to remedy the hazard. He added that replacing the span with a new trestle, not raising the old one by about a foot, would help remove the blockage it creates.

David Anderson, an engineering consultant working for the agency, said the flooding problem is caused by a narrowing of the creek, just downstream from the trestle.

Even when debris collects under the bridge, water continues to flow, until the lower reach of the creek can’t handle any more, he said. Then, water starts backing up, causing flooding.

Rail crews, Anderson said, had equipment on the scene and breached the levee on the north side of the creek, just east of the bridge, to relieve the flooding.

“These guys risked their freaking lives out there,” Anderson said. “That mitigated the flooding.”

Novato’s lawsuit contends that NCRA did not conduct a comprehensive environmental study on its plans for freight service which could send up to 32 trains, each pulling up to 60 cars, through Novato every week at speeds up to 40 mph.

“Novato wants to stop all repairs and maintenance between Lombard and Windsor,” Stogner said. “Somebody’s got to understand the irony of that.”

Freight plans call for starting service between Windsor in Sonoma County and Lombard in Napa County. Trains would cross through Novato and turn east near Highway 37.

Bill Long, chairman of the Novato flood advisory board, said the trestle has been a problem for years.

“The trestle is known to be a trash collector and known to slow the water,” he said.

Upstream, Sally Stokes has lived on Garden Court for more than 20 years. On Friday water backed up and flooded the street, her yard and her garage.

“We had maybe a foot to go before it got into the house,” she said. “I blame the rain more than anything.”

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