City of Novato
Public Works Department
922 Machin Avenue
Novato, CA, 94945
Dear City of Novato Resident:
This letter is being sent to you for informational purposes only because our GIS/FEMA floodplain records indicate that your property is very likely located in the floodplain. Inclusion in this mailing is not an official flood zone determination. The City is working to improve and increase its circulation of and accessibility to information that pertains to the floodplain, in an effort to better educate and assist its citizens about developing their property and living in the floodplain. Please take the time to read the information below, and if you have further questions, a variety of contact information is provided at the end of this document.
City of Novato drainage features several large creeks, smaller tributaries and waterways that are susceptible to annual flooding events. These flood events pose threats to life and safety and can cause significant property damage.
Historic Flood Events
While some sort of seasonal storm related damage occurs nearly every year, flooding and associated landslide events between November and March represent the most significant hazard events in Novato. Damage to City of Novato businesses, residences and infrastructure has been estimated to be several million dollars since the early 1920s. It is estimated that flood events affect over half of the City’s residents when considering excess mud, debris, closed roads, flooded properties, and losses to businesses.
Although the more recent floods of 1995 and 2006 represented moderate flood events, City records dating back to 1923 indicate that Novato Creek contributed to significant flooding in the City on at least seven occasions. City records report that in 1923, 1952 & 1982 floodwaters inundated many residential areas and streets in the low lying locations between Wilson Ave and Redwood Blvd. The 1952 and 1982 floods were estimated to exceed the so-called “100-year flood” which has a 1-percent chance of occurring in any year.
Causes of Flooding in the City of Novato
The Novato watershed spans a wide range of climatic regions resulting in considerable variation in precipitation as a result of weather patterns, geology and hydrology that combine to create a variety of flood factors. Flooding is most common between November through March, when storms from the South Pacific, known as a “Pineapple Express” and “El Nino” cycles, bring intense rainfall to the area. The average annual precipitation ranges between 25 to over 50 inches, respectively. Winter Storms followed by intense periods of precipitation, augmented by saturated soils, silt deposition, high tides and wind surge, create chronic seasonal flooding conditions and contribute significantly to creekways flooding Commercial, Industrial and Residential Areas. Contact the City of Novato Engineering Division (415) 899-8246 for further information.
The City of Novato participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) that makes available federally backed flood insurance for all structures whether or not they are located within the floodplain. More than 25 percent of NFIP claims are filed by properties located outside of the 100-year floodplain, also known as the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). Following the purchase of flood insurance, NFIP imposes a 30-day waiting period, so residents should purchase insurance before the onset of the rainy season to ensure coverage during the flooding season. Please be aware that standard homeowner or renter insurance policies do not cover losses due to flooding.
Membership within NFIP and the availability to City residents of flood insurance requires the City to manage its floodplain in ways that meet or exceed standards set by FEMA. NFIP insures buildings with two types of coverage: structural and contents. Structural coverage includes walls, floors, insulation, furnace and other items permanently attached to the structure. Contents coverage may be purchased separately to cover the contents of an insurable building. Flood insurance also pays a portion of the costs of actions taken to prevent flood damage.
Since July 1, 1997, all NFIP policies include Increased Cost of Compliance coverage that assists with bringing structures into compliance with current building standards, such as elevating structures 1 foot or more above the height of the 100-year flood. The limit of this coverage is $30,000.
Federal financial assistance requires the purchase of flood insurance for buildings located within the SFHA — a requirement that affects nearly all mortgages financed through commercial lending institutions. This mandatory requirement stipulates that structural coverage be purchased equal to the amount of the loan, or other financial assistance, or for the maximum amount available, which is currently $250,000 for a single family residence. While the mandatory flood insurance purchase requirement has been in effect for many years, not all lending institutions required flood insurance in the past. Today, however, most institutions are now requiring the flood insurance purchase, and some are reviewing all mortgage loans to determine whether flood insurance is required and should have been required in the past. Upon refinancing a loan, nearly all lending institutions will enforce the flood insurance requirement. It is the lender’s responsibility to check the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) to determine whether a structure is within the SFHA.
The mandatory flood insurance purchase requirement does not apply to loans or financial assistance for items that are not eligible for flood insurance coverage, such as vehicles, business expenses, landscaping and vacant lots. The requirement also does not apply to loans for structures not located in a SFHA, even though a portion of the lot may be within a SFHA. Persons located within SFHAs who received disaster assistance after Sept. 23, 1994 for flood losses to real or personal property must purchase and maintain flood insurance coverage, otherwise future disaster assistance will be denied.
The City of Novato has consistently managed the floodplain above and beyond the minimum standards of the NFIP. Since 1995 the City has participated in FEMA’s Community Rating System (CRS). This is a voluntary incentive program that rewards communities for floodplain management activities that exceed minimum NFIP requirements. The CRS program rates those activities and automatically discounts the flood insurance premiums for policy holders. These activities include and provide for: Public Information and Outreach, Mapping and Regulatory Development and Support, Flood Damage Reduction Planning and Maintenance and Flood Preparedness Activities. The City’s high level of effort has resulted in increasingly higher CRS ratings. Effective May 1, 2010 the City’s efforts were recognized with a CRS rating of 6 which will provide a 20% discount to properties in the SFHA. There are nearly 1500 flood insurance policy holders in Novato, and the 20% discount amounts to an estimated total savings of $300,000 for the community. See also: http://www.fema.gov/nfip/
Floodplain Understanding and Regulation
The City and Marin County Flood Control District actively maintain the flow capacity of streams on public properties and requires your cooperation and assistance to prevent flooding and bank erosion on private property. Following are some suggestions and information in order to protect property and lives, while affording City of Novato citizens the ability to obtain floodplain insurance.
Do not dump or throw anything into ditches or streams: Logs, branches , vegetation and floatable trash dumped into streams not only degrades water quality of the stream and receiving waters; but contributes to both localized flooding near your property upstream and downstream properties. The City has adopted and enforces regulations that prohibit the illegal dumping of material, including material dumped into ditches, streams or other drainageways. Please report any observations of the dumping of debris into streams, drainage, or Creekways to the City Code Enforcement Division (415) 899-8989.
Remove debris, trash, loose branches and vegetation: Keep ditches and creek banks clear of brush and debris to help maintain an unobstructed flow of water in drainage channels. However, do not remove vegetation that is actively growing on a stream bank as this will increase erosion of the bank.
Obtain an appropriate Planning or Engineering permit, when required: All construction, new and substantial improvement of existing structures in or near a drainage facility, floodplain or proposed within 50 feet of a creekway requires a City Permit and development plans prior to starting any project work. Contact the City Planning Division (415) 899-8989 for additional information prior to undertaking any activity within the floodplain or if you see non-permitted building or filling in the floodplain.
Recognize the natural and beneficial functions of floodplains to help reduce flooding: Floodplains are a natural component of our environment. Protecting the natural functions of floodplains helps reduce flood damage and protect resources.
Reduce risk of damage to homes: Poorly managed floodplains can lead to bank erosion, loss of valuable property, and increase the risk of flooding to downstream properties. Practical and cost-effective methods for reducing or eliminating the risk of flooding are available to property owners whose homes have or may experience damage from flooding. Contact the City of Novato Planning Department (415) 899-8989 or the Federal Emergency Management Agency website.
City Floodplain Information Services: City staff can determine: 1) If a property is located within the Special Flood Hazard Area; 2) Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) Zone; 3) Base Flood Elevation, if available; and 4) If a property is located within the Floodway. The City also maintains elevation certificates for review, where these records have been provided to the City by the property owner. City staffs are available to undertake site visits, if requested, to review flood, drainage, sewer or retro-fitting issues. Contact the City of Novato Engineering Division (415) 899-8246 for further information.
Flood Safety Tips
The City’s Emergency Operations Procedure has flood warning information available that can be accessed by calling either the Public Works Maintenance Division (415) 899-8280, the Police Department (415) 897-4361 or through the website at: http://www.novato.org. The website includes information about where to obtain sandbags. If you live, work, or go to school in Marin County and are 18 or over, you may register your cell phone to receive emergency alert sent by call from the County of Marin. Click on this link http://www.alertmarin.org to obtain more information and register. Following is a list of important considerations that should be followed during times of flooding:
Prepare an evacuation plan: Before the floodwaters rise, develop an evacuation plan among all members of your household that includes a meeting place outside of the house, as well as an escape route out of the floodplain and away from floodwaters.
Do not walk through flowing water: Drowning is the number one cause of flood deaths, mostly during flash floods. Currents can be deceptive. Six inches of moving water can knock you off your feet! If you walk in standing water, use a pole or stick to ensure that the ground is still there.
Do not drive through a flooded area: More people drown in their cars than anywhere else. Don’t drive around road barriers; the road or bridge may be washed out.
Stay away from power lines and electrical wires: The number two flood killer after drowning is electrocution. Electrical current can travel through water. Report downed power lines to Pacific Gas and Electric Company at: www.pge.com.
Shut off gas and electricity and move valuable contents upstairs: Be prepared in advance with a detailed checklist because warning of an impending flood may provide little time for preparation prior to evacuation.
Look out for animals, especially snakes: Small animals that have been flooded out of their homes may seek shelter in yours. Use a pole or stick to poke and turn things over and scare away small animals.
Look before you step: After a flood, the ground and floors are covered with debris including broken bottles and nails. Floors and stairs that have been covered with mud can be very slippery.
Be alert for gas leaks: Use a flashlight to inspect for damage. Don’t smoke or use candles, lanterns or open flames unless you know that the gas has been turned off and the area has been ventilated.
Important Contact Information:
Planning (415) 899-8989
Public Works Division (415) 899-8246
City of Novato Home Page: http://www.novato.org (In case of an emergency, call 911)