IMAGES: Memorial Park Flood Detention Basin Options

A local landscape architecture firm has created several conceptual designs for turning San Anselmo's Memorial Park into a flood detention basin. What do you think of the images? Tell us in the comments.


The day after San Anselmo Creek was inches away from flooding downtown, concerned community members filled the San Anselmo council chambers for a pre-scheduled community meeting on plans to turn Memorial Park into a flood detention basin.

San Rafael-based Abey Arnold Associates landscape architects presented several conceptual graphics outlining how Memorial Park can become a flood detention basin that will still consist of athletic fields and the park’s amenities. Most of the park would be lowered 10 to 15 feet. 

We attached the designs above. They can also be found on the town’s website.

San Anselmo Town Manager Debbie Stutsman said the council chambers were filled for the Dec. 3 evening meeting, with people overflowing into the lobby. She estimated around 60 people attended the meeting, which lasted two hours.

Stutsman said more than 60 questions were asked at the meeting by community members. Town staff will hand out answers to each of the questions at another meeting on the project the town will hold in the future, probably in January, Stutsman said.

At the Dec. 3 meeting town officials handed out a Q&A with 30 questions (attached above) that were asked at the first stakeholders meeting held of the project on Nov. 3. 

Stutsman said it was especially the San Franciso Blvd. neighbors who had a lot of questions and concerns.

The project  — which is still in early conceptual stages — could take around five years to fully implement, according to town staff.

The San Anselmo Town Council approved a funding agreement for the project between the town and County Flood Control District Zone 9 at its Nov. 13 meeting and gave Town Manager Debbie Stutsman the green light to submit a grant application to the California Department of Water Resources.

Tests that have been done for flood prevention, which involved the San Rafael-based Stetson Engineers using hydrologic and hydraulic computer models to simulate the 2005 100-year flood in San Anselmo. Enlarging the San Anselmo Creek as much as possible without doing too much harm to the environment or encroaching on private properties wouldn’t do enough to prevent flooding, according to town staff. 

The detention basin would be able to contain a 100-year flood, similar to the 2005 flood. The 1982 flood had 5 percent more flow than a 100-year-old, according to town staff. 

The basin is one of the four detention locations that have been marked as top priority projects in the county’s 10-year work program. They are part of a $130 million effort.

Work is already underway on another flood detention basin at Phoenix Lake, Stutsman said, which will involve increasing the lake’s capacity.

The other two proposed locations for basins are Lefty Gomez Field at White Hill Middle School and Loma Alta, an open space above White Hill Middle School.



San Anselmo officials sounded the towns flood siren Sunday morning when the creek levels quickly rose from 6 feet at 7:33 a.m. to just under 13 feet around 9 a.m. Fairfax Creek also saw a similarly huge spike and the Fairfax Town Hall almost flooded. 

“It was so incredibly fast,” Stutsman said. 

The San Anselmo Creek water rose so quickly it threw the town’s normal flood protocol out the window and sent officials scrambling, she said.

“I’ve been involved in so many floods here and I’ve never seen anything like that,” Stutsman said. “It was definitely a close call. We dodged a bullet . We’ll have to be very careful this whole winter.” 

See photos and videos of the high creek waters here.


Were you at the meeting? What was it like? What’s your reaction to the plans?


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Steve Burdo December 05, 2012 at 09:27 PM
For decades, San Anselmo has been significantly impacted by flooding. Whether you live up on the hill, are a downtown merchant or live right on the creek, flooding impacts each and every one of us in one way or another. It's time to come together as a community and implement a solution. The Memorial Park Detention Basin project - as part of a regional flood mitigation project by Flood Zone 9 - is a sound approach to preventing future flooding in San Anselmo and other localities down stream. The Detention Basin Project is a solution that, I believe, will improve the quality of life for our residents in a very meaningful way. I was heartened to see so many residents come out on Monday night to listen to the presentation. There were indeed many questions (most of them really good), and I think the staff did a wonderful job of answering as many of the questions and informing people about the project. To me, Monday night embodied the idea of San Anselmo - A small, tight-knit community coming together to address one of our most serious community issues.
Bennett Hamer December 06, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Steve As much as I believe you are genuine in your endorsement, I as a resident around Memorial Park have many questions that impact our geocommunity. First, why does this park need to be the basin for floods when there are alternate solutions that spreads the burden (ie digging the creek a littler deeper and rebuilding the bridges so that they can prevent obstructions). We at Memorial Park would be stuck with a lake filled possibly with sewage from spills and then living with the clean up with god knows what chemical agents.
Bennett Hamer December 06, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Also from what I can read from the plans, there is a grove of eucalyptus trees and others that would be cut down around Memorial Park. In this time when we are looking for solutions against global warning cutting down more trees seems like a wrong headed solution.
Doug Kelly December 07, 2012 at 07:50 AM
Dear Bennett, There are 182 measures in the flood mitigation project. These do indeed include digging the creek deeper, widening the creek, raising some levees, replacing bridges and many others. We need to keep in mind that the Ross Valley was a flood zone 500 ears ago, it’s a historical fact and all we can do is mitigate the damage, not eliminate the threat. There are four detention basins under consideration at Phoenix Lake, The Whitehill School, Memorial Park and Loma Alta and also in the future Red Hill Community Park may be added. The reason for the detention basins is simply that scientist that studied this flood zone tell us that no widening or deepening will mitigate the “100 year flood” scenario. (By the way the 1982 flood and the 2005 floods were both 10 year flood events.) We need to find a way to temporarily hold some water in such an event and using the park is better than flooding 100 homes and 50 businesses. I urge you to read the entire project which and view videos which can be found at http://www.marinwatersheds.org/rossvalleywatershed-org/index.html
Doug Kelly December 07, 2012 at 07:50 AM
Also Bennet, By the way I realize that due to our aging pipes we also have sewage issues during floods* but the Memorial Park detention basin is planned to hold the overflow from the Sorich Creek and the Public Works Director Sean Condry does not feel that the water will “stink” as you are concerned about. His answer to me was as follows. Hi Doug: I do not think it would stink. We do not get many sewer spills in this area during flooding because there is no flooding in this area to infiltrate the sewer lines and a number of them have been relined. It should smell just like the creek does. Sincerely, Sean Bottom line is that these concerns are why public meetings are essential and I urge you to come and voice your concerns as some or all of these 182 measures move forward. We really need a comprehensive and sustainable plan and this has been studied by experts in the field Of course that does not mean that we have to accept all their suggestions, that’s what pubic input must determine. Doug * Yes, the Ross Valley Sanitation District needs about $300 million to replace all the aging pipes in the Ross Valley. It’s not a very exciting project but we will have to fact this issue at some point as well.
Bennett Hamer December 07, 2012 at 06:07 PM
Doug: Your feedback and information is very helpful and I will take a closer look a the project. I plan to be there at the next meeting with what I hope will be informed questions. Cheers! Bennett


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