December Martinez Mayor's Message
Dec 02, 2015 10:41PM ● Published by Rob Schroder
Preparing for El Niño
For the last five years of writing the monthly mayor’s column, I have endeavored to concentrate on the goal of informing on a particular topic, rather than editorializing. This month I found it difficult to decide which one topic I would write about, so I decided to cover several things, some of which are highlighted in the Martinez City News on the city’s website.
After five years of devastating drought, scientists predict an extremely high probability of an El Niño winter that will bring rainfall in epic proportions. It is our responsibility as a city to prepare for that possibility and help our residents and businesses prepare as well. City crews worked diligently for several weeks in October to clean out storm drains, remove debris and fallen trees from creeks and flood channels, and prepare equipment to be ready for any emergency.
The most visible effort to help us weather a major storm event was the removal of silt and debris from Alhambra Creek, from Ward Street to Escobar. This section of the creek, combined with the replacement of the railroad bridge adjacent to the Amtrak station, was a multi-million dollar flood control and creek enhancement project completed in 2000. It was designed to keep the creek from overflowing its banks and flooding the downtown business district, and it has done just that.
It has been years since the siltation and overgrowth has been removed due to the sensitivity of protecting wildlife and the fact that we have been experiencing many years of little or no rainfall. If you had a chance to look into Alhambra Creek prior to the recent rains, you would have seen an overgrown and choked channel with only a trickle of possibly toxic water moving toward the Carquinez Straits. It seemed to me that the only flushing of the creek was the intrusion of salt-water during high tides. Since city crews carefully cleaned and cleared the channel, the likelihood of downtown flooding has been greatly reduced.
The downtown is not the only part of the city that is prone to flooding; we must all prepare both homes and businesses. Clean out your rain gutters and drains, make sure your sump pumps are working, and have a supply of sand bags on hand. The city provides sand bags and sand, free of charge. The bags are available at City Hall in front of the police department, and sand is available at Nancy Boyd Park, at the west end of F Street off Alhambra Avenue, at Ferry and Allen Streets, and Rankin Park. Useful links to more ways to prepare for this winter include www.ready.gov/floods and emergency.cdc.gov/floods/readiness.asp.
Holiday on Ice
Rain or shine, Downtown Martinez has a new attraction this winter. Holiday on Ice kicked off on November 20 and runs through January 6. This is a 50’ X 80’ outdoor ice rink located in the city parking lot, on the corner of Marina Vista and Ferry Streets. It is open 7 days a week and hosts public skating, birthday parties, private parties, lessons, and a holiday skating academy. This is a project that Main Street Martinez has been planning for years and is made possible by the generous support of DC Solar, PG&E, Shell Oil, Contra Costa Electric, and the City of Martinez. For more information, log on to downtownholidayice.com.
PG&E Pipeline Progress
And speaking of PG&E, do you remember the controversial Pipeline Pathways Project that created such a ruckus in 2014? In an effort to make sure their gas transmission pipelines remained safe, they proposed removing thousands of trees on both public and private property. In response, many Bay Area cities, including Martinez, objected to the scope of the project and demanded to be part of the process. PG&E listened and the project was analyzed and improved, and now cities and PG&E are working together. In Martinez, PG&E has inspected the integrity of all Martinez pipelines and has made necessary repairs and replacements. As part of implementation of the project, PG&E has agreed to assist the city with upcoming holiday events held every year in the downtown. They are also providing nearly seventy trees, to be planted by city staff, to replace trees removed in this safety program.
As a result, the city is taking this opportunity to look at beautifying medians on Alhambra Avenue near Virginia Hills and on Center Avenue near Hidden Valley Park. Because droughts will likely become more common in California, the city will remove turf in medians and replace them with trees and native landscaping. The areas considered for planting include Morello Avenue near Highway 4 and Alhambra Avenue near downtown. This work is planned to take place this winter.