Capdiamont\’s Weblog

Four railroad related letters to the editor in Novato Advance
Wednesday 6 Feb 2008, 10:00
Filed under: NCRA, Railroad

 I put the NA assigned title of each letter outside the block quote to try and make it clearer where each letter started and stopped. They are in the order they were published in.

No good deed goes unpunished

On Friday, Jan. 25 and Saturday, Jan. 26, the North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA) used its rail-mounted excavator to remove debris from the railroad trestle crossing at Novato Creek east of the Vintage Oaks shopping center on Rowland Avenue in Novato, and averted a potential flooding disaster for homes and businesses in the area.

The thanks that the NCRA received for its quick response was a public complaint from Marin County Supervisors that the NCRA needs to do more to repair and maintain the railroad. (Keep in mind that the shopping carts and other debris that created the man-made dam and the paving over of wetlands are the primary cause of flooding at Novato Creek). This is the same Marin County that has joined the city of Novato in a lawsuit to stop the NCRA from investing $26 million for the repair of 62 miles of track that extends from Highway 37 north along Highway 101 past Novato and the cities of Petaluma, Cotati, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa and Windsor.

What an incredible irony! The city and the county that complains that there needs to be more done to repair the railroad are the same city and county that has gone to court to stop $26 million in NCRA contracts that have already been awarded to repair bridges, crossings, trackway, shore up levees, and unplug culverts — all repairs that would reduce the likelihood and potential damage caused by flooding in Marin and Sonoma Counties.

The logic of complaining about repairs while trying to use the court to stop repairs completely escapes me.

Mitch Stogner,

Executive Director, NCRA

Mike Arnold a ‘shill’ for oil, trucking

Way to go, Mr. Gambill! Despite Mr. Arnold’s “accusing” me of being a “longtime freight rail supporter,” my piece on the subject was the first public comment I’d ever made. What I know about “freight rail” is pretty much limited to what I learned from the electric train Santa brought me many years ago.

As seems to be his custom, Mr. Arnold never hesitates to play fast and loose with the truth. I wonder if he and his ilk are also responsible for the anti-SMART propaganda that public transit will increase crime by bringing “those people” into Marin. No kidding, I’ve heard that fear voiced by many well-intentioned citizens whenever the subject comes up. Scare tactics are reprehensible. Why am I not surprised to learn who fills “Marin Citizens for Effective Transportation’s” war chest? That ought to be in the headlines!

As for our city council, well, “courageous” hardly applies. I was circumspect when I called them “shortsighted.” I strongly suspect “gutless” is the more appropriate adjective. As is often said, a politician only cares about the next election. Did our elected city leaders cave in to the radical environmentalists’ threats of an “F” on their “environmental report cards” next election, instead of acting in the best interests of those who elected them? Inquiring minds want to know.

Not just Novato, but all of the North Coast owes Mr. Gambill for his column in the Jan. 30 Advance “outing” Mike Arnold as a shill for the oil and trucking interests.

Bob Cleek

Some history on Novato flooding

A little insight on the flooding on Novato Creek on Friday night, Jan. 25:

More than 7 inches of rain fell upstream in the Novato Creek Watershed. The rain began around 3:30 a.m. and fell until 11 p.m.

That’s more then 0.30 inches an hour! The rainfall was recorded by longtime Novato resident Gerald Gauze who lives just west of Stafford Lake. This was the principal cause of the “minor flooding” in downtown Novato and Nave Court near Novato Boulevard adjacent to Novato Creek.

As a longtime former Novato resident and having personally experienced the 1955, l964, l971 and 1973 floods before moving to San Francisco, I can tell you that as little as 3.5 inches of rain in 10 hours with prior ground saturation can and has caused flooding along Novato Creek upstream and downstream from Highway 101.

Prior to the early 1950s, excess water from Novato Creek flowed out harmlessly into marshlands east of U.S. 101 and north of Highway 37 and drained out into San Pablo Bay under parallel bridges carrying 101 and the Northwestern Pacific Railroad over Novato Creek.

When the county flood control district (prior to Novato’s 1960 incorporation) built levees along the banks of Novato Creek from Rowland Boulevard to Highway 37, this raised the capacity of the creek allowing for more water to back up into town during high tides and heavy rain events.

I personally saw the Northwestern Pacific Railroad clean debris away from the Novato Creek bridges on a regular basis during the rainy season. I don’t know if Caltrans did the same thing underneath the 101 bridge.

I also remember that the flood control district regularly dredged the creek. I don’ t believe this has been done during the last two winters. So a buildup of silt and mud has decreased the load capacity of Novato Creek causing it to spill earlier.

During periods of excessive rain and high tide, the outflow backs up and spills the banks upstream and below stream from the bridges that span Novato Creek and the railroad.

I researched flood articles in the Novato Advance and didn’t find one mention saying that the railroad bridge contributed to the flooding. I have been a meteorologist for 40 years here in the Bay Area, and the problem with the flooding revolves around three parameters: too much heavy rain, diminished capacity of Novato Creek and incoming high tide which backs up run-off into San Pablo Bay.

The railroad came to Novato in 1878, so the bridges over Novato Creek have been in place 132 years and have never been an issue in Novato flooding until last Friday night.

When I moved to Novato in 1948, the Nave Bros. along the Ralph Bridges built some of the first “tract homes” in Novato. They would not have built homes in Nave Court if they knew the area was vulnerable to floods from Novato Creek.

I have done extensive research on Novato and Marin County floods including 1981-82, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2002, and 2005 and they occurred during heavy rain and high tides.

I hope this information helps you in coming to meaningful answers to the flooding along Novato Creek.

P.s. My late father Fred and the late Betty Machado single-handedly obtained the signatures to incorporate Novato in 1958-59.

Mike Pechner

KCBS Staff Meteorologist

Owner/operator of Golden West Meteorology

Opponents made misstatements

The ultimate fate of freight and passenger rail in our community is the subject of ongoing and complex debate. It’s important to get the facts straight. Unfortunately, the recent op-ed by NCRA and SMART supporter Lionel Gambill contained a number of misstatements.

1. Marin Citizens for Effective Transportation (MCET) has received no funding from any “pro-highway” organizations, and that includes the ones cited by Mr. Gambill. Nor did MCET “bring in” pro-highway organizations to help defeat the rail tax measure (Measure R) in 2006.

2. MCET regularly files contributor lists, as we did for the SMART campaign. While MCET spent about $37,000 to defeat Measure R, pro-SMART forces spent in excess of $400,000. Donations to defeat Measure R came mainly from Marin environmentalists. Support for Measure R was largely from pro-development interests in Sonoma County, such as Coddington Industries, as well as from freight supporters, builders’ PACs and engineering firms that consult to rail operators and agencies.

3. The NCRA has already done significant damage to the Eel River. In 1997, the Department of Fish and Game and the Regional Water Quality Control Board filed a lawsuit against the NCRA/NWP for numerous violations of the Fish and Game Code, Health and Safety Code, and the Water Code. To settle the suit, the NCRA entered into a consent decree in 1998. However the NCRA has not taken any of the agreed on steps to stop these problems, even in areas where open containers are overflowing and spilling petroleum products directly into the Eel River.

4. NCRA is backed by powerful interests with influence in Sacramento. The board of directors of the freight operator includes Skip Berg, who received $20 million in earmarks to develop the Port of Sonoma, former congressman Doug Bosco, and the CEO of Evergreen Natural Resources, the entity that has applied for a permit to mine Island Mountain Quarry in Trinity County.

For the record, MCET’s agenda is not to build more highways. Our goal has always been to ensure that transportation dollars are spent wisely, with benefits accruing to the public at large, not to private entities and individuals.

Susan Ristow

Member, MCET




I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you.

Allen Taylor

Comment by Allen Taylor

I find it hard to understand why you would fight so hard against public transportation. With the freeways bursting with traffic, and people crawling down HWY 101 at $4.00/gallon it is absolutely necessary to come up with a cost effective solution. I believe that SMART is that solution. What is your solution?

Comment by Patricia Tostenson

Actually I’m highly pro rail. I think Novato will end of drowning itself due to it’s anti-rail attitude.

Comment by capdiamont

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: