Frank Egger

Public Advocate

Copy the Link below into your browser to view Former Coastal Commissioner Frank Egger's testimony to the California Coastal Commission regarding the firing of the Commission's Executive Director

Marin Voice: 

Costly county trend of relying 

on expensive consultants

By Frank Egger.

​Marin’s governmental agencies — the county, towns and special districts — are spending tens of millions of dollars annually on consultants and in turn, policy decisions are being driven by consultants.

Marin County cannot make a decision without checking with consultants. 

Take two projects for example, the Marin County Open Space District’s Draft Vegetation and Biodiversity Management Plan and the Ross Valley Flood Zone No. 9’s Flood Mitigation Plan. 

We all want our watershed to be as fire-safe as it can be. So the issue is how to control invasive plants such as French and Scotch broom? Once the county added pesticides to its plan, it brought about a new issue, the safety of the proposed pesticides.

Marinites have long opposed the use of poison to control invasive weeds. The Marin Municipal Water District found out how expensive it was to try and use pesticides in our watershed. Its environmental impact report had been languishing for years as it kept throwing more money at it to address Marinites’ concerns about the safety of pesticides.

MMWD learned the hard way, it just dropped the use of pesticides in the watershed as one of its options and took a huge weight and expense off of its back. If pesticides are not in the mix and hand work, controlled burns, machine shredding and goats are the solutions, most of the opposition goes away. 

And, MMWD can save a lot of money by dropping pesticide use.

Because the county will not drop the use of pesticides in its Parks and Open Space plan, it has just added another $200,000 in consultant costs to expand the study. 

We can just say no to pesticides, create pesticide-free zones and then we don’t have to pay to study them.

Ross Valley Flood Zone No. 9 is the other example. 

Consultants came up with 180 options to mitigate flooding in the Ross Valley including using San Anselmo’s Memorial Park and White Hill School’s Lefty Gomez Field in Fairfax as detention basins. A number of us said: Do not include the two playfields Ross Valley kids use most, consider the other 178 options for real flood mitigation.

Over the years, as an elected official, I can think of two consultant-driven creek projects where the engineers were wrong.

As mayor in the 1970s, we had a proposal to expand Fairfax Town Hall over Fairfax Creek. I told our consulting engineer that building over Fairfax Creek is not smart, the building will flood. 

Our engineer said to me, “Frank, it is safe to build over the creek, you and I will never see Town Hall flood in our lifetime.” I lost that vote 4-1. I have seen Fairfax Town Hall flood twice, in 1982 and 2005.

​The consultant was wrong and it cost Fairfax taxpayers a bundle.

The Army Corps of Engineers proposed turning Corte Madera Creek into a concrete ditch to stop flooding in the 1960s. As a council member, I said it wouldn’t work. They “concreted” the creek through Kentfield. The engineers underestimated the amount of water coming out of the Ross Valley from monsoon rains. No one talked about high tide or sea-level rise. It has flooded with the concrete channel.

​Flood mitigation, yes, but as I have been saying all along, don’t use our kids’ playing fields, Memorial Park and Lefty Gomez Field, for detention basins. It will be a waste of money, destroy the parks and your plan offers 178 other options. 

What did the leaders of Ross Valley Flood Zone No. 9 do? 

They hired a public relations consultant for almost $100,000 to try and sell us the park plans.

They doubled down on their two worst choices.

Frank Egger is a former Fairfax mayor, a former state Coastal Commission member and is serving his second term on the Ross Valley Sanitary District board. He is a candidate for 2nd District supervisor on June’s ballot.