Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

FAQs for 2019 Russian River Flood Recovery

Questions and answers for debris removal, permitting, and financial assistance.

Debris Removal

Read more about debris removal and curbside collection.

Dump fees will not be waived.

As of Monday, March 11, residents in the Lower Russian River area can put separated debris at the curb for pick-up. Pick-up replaces the now closed debris drop-off sites. Dates for curbside pick-up are March 11-15, 2019 with a second, final pickup March 18-22, 2019.

We will share updates on debris removal at

  • Ensure that your debris items do not block the road.
  • Move parked cars off the roadside wherever possible to make room for the trucks to pass easily.
  • Observe all safety signs and proceed with caution when traveling through the area

Residents are asked to separate curbside debris into three categories:

  • Debris, such as furniture and construction materials
  • Appliances /metals
  • Household Hazardous Waste (See common examples)

Putting tarps over each pile of debris will help keep materials from flying away in wind.

Yes, however, dump fees will not be waived.

Pick-up crews will only remove household hazardous waste from private property. Crews will not enter private roads or property to remove other debris.

Recology will replace trash cans lost in the flood. Call (800) 243-0291.

The Sonoma County Health Officer declared a local health emergency due to the household hazardous waste along the waterways, roadsides and on public and private properties after flooding.

There’s a lot you can do to protect yourself from illness or disease while moving flood debris or cleaning up after a flood, including:

  • Wear protective personal equipment, such as gloves, rubber boots, a respirator or goggles. Use shovels and other tools whenever possible to avoid using your hands to touch debris.
  • Wash your hands with soap after working to remove bacteria and germs.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has detailed information about how to stay safe:

Residents that live down rural, narrow, roads, we ask that you put your debris as close to the public right-of-way, without blocking the road.

Please call 2-1-1 Sonoma County, (707) 565-2108, or (800)-325-9604 for more information about debris removal.

Yes. Although businesses in the unincorporated areas of the lower Russian River can participate in the program, our crews will be prioritizing residential property pick up first.

Commercial businesses are encouraged to contact their flood insurance provider and find out if they are covered for debris clean up.

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Financial & Legal Help

Read more about financial & legal resources.

FEMA has not yet declared the 2019 Winter Storm a major disaster. FEMA help for residents is limited. Currently, FEMA must gather data to determine whether the damage meets federal levels to receive assistance for affected residents. The FEMA threshold is $56 million in damage that is NOT covered by insurance.

The County has estimated that countywide flood damages will be more than $150 million. County data is being refined daily.

The damage estimate includes approximately 1,900 homes, and 578 businesses, at least $23.5 million in damages to public property including debris removal, emergency protective measures, non-federal road and bridge systems, water control facilities, public buildings, public utilities, as well as park and recreational facilities. Damage estimates also include approximately $4 million in physical agriculture damage.

Once the County completes its disaster assessment, that data is sent to State and Federal emergency services administrators. Those officials decide whether to submit a request for federal help from the president.

In addition, the California Office of Emergency Services is assessing damage statewide from the 2019 Winter Storm. Those assessments will help state officials in determining the potential of qualifying for federal assistance.

At this time, we do not know if or when Sonoma County would receive a federal declaration as a major disaster for the 2019 Winter Storms.

Federal aid could include Individual assistance for residents, such as funds or programs for housing, medical, child care, unemployment and legal costs. It could also include funds for public assistance, including debris removal and help repairing roads and bridges.

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Permit Information

Read more about the permitting process.

The damage assessment inspectors determined that the building is damaged and poses an imminent threat to life or safety under expected loads or other unsafe conditions. You need to apply for permits and complete required building repairs before occupancy is allowed.

The damage assessment inspectors determined that there is some risk from damage to the building. You will need a permit for any electrical, plumbing (including natural gas), and/or mechanical systems repairs. You will also need a permit for replacement of pre-existing interior sheetrock, insulation, doors, and other structural repairs. Once your permit is finalized, the yellow tag will be cleared from your property.

The damage assessment inspectors determined that the safety of the habitable parts of the building(s) were not significantly changed by this disaster. However, there may be damages that require permits. You will need a permit for any electrical, plumbing (including natural gas), and/or mechanical systems repairs. You will also need a permit for replacement of pre-existing interior sheetrock, insulation, doors, and other structural repairs.

As always, property owners are advised to obtain permits from Permit Sonoma before repairing or rebuilding flood-damaged structures. Building codes are minimum requirements for the construction of buildings. They regulate the design, construction, alteration, and maintenance of structures to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of building occupants. Building codes are an essential safety measure for communities.

If there was water damage to electrical, plumbing (including natural gas), and/or mechanical systems, you will be required to obtain permits. A permit is required for each individual trade, which includes electrical, plumbing, and/or mechanical. For replacement of pre-existing interior sheetrock, insulation, doors, and other structural repairs, you will also need a building permit.

Please visit When is a Building Permit not Required. You can also check out this short YouTube video that covers the most common projects that do not need a permit.

Residents and businesses impacted by winter storms and floods can apply for permits at Permit Sonoma’s permit center located at 2550 Ventura Avenue, Santa Rosa.

The permit center is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM, except Wednesdays, when it is open from 10:30 AM to 4:00 PM. You can also apply online at Permit Sonoma.

Permitting staff are ready to assist you at any stage in your permitting process. They can provide an overview of permitting requirements to those just getting started. And they can review permit applications for those that already know what permits are needed and have plans that are ready for review.

The County will be expediting permitting for flood recovery. We will be able to issue over the counter permits for residential permits that are not structural and do not require a plan. Examples of these permits types include sheet rock, electrical, plumbing, re-roofing, furnaces, propane tanks, water heaters, and siding. For more involved permits, staff will expedite plan review.

Please come into the Permit Center to talk with permitting staff about your specific permitting needs and timeline.

Permit fees vary depending on the size of the project. Many over the counter permits will range in cost from $100 to $700. Electrical, structural, and sheet rock permit fees will be higher depending on the size of the project. Please discuss your specific permitting needs with permitting staff. A comprehensive list of fees is available online.

Permit fees are paid upon submission of your permit application. When your plans have been checked for compliance with all appropriate building codes and regulations, there may be additional fees, depending on the type and scope of the project. You can pay with cash, check or credit card (Visa or MasterCard accepted).

Your permit is valid for 3 years from the date of issuance.

You can now begin construction. Your approved plans, job card and any other documents your received must be posted on the job site in an easily visible location. The job card will be used by the inspector to record progress on the required inspections. The set of plans will be used to verify that all construction is in compliance with the approved plans. The job card and plans must be kept on-site and available for the inspector’s use.

If applicable, Permit staff will let you know what inspections are required for your project.  Please visit Permit Sonoma Inspections to find out more about inspections, including how to schedule them.

Electrical equipment subjected to water damage can be extremely dangerous if reenergized without proper reconditioning. You will need a building permit to repair or replace your electrical panel. When doing repairs, if water affected your electrical wires, you will need a magnometer test of these wires needed before closing your walls.

See Reuse of Water Damaged Equipment for more information about damaged electrical equipment.

You will need to replace your propane tank. A building permit will be required. You can get an over-the-counter permit for this at the County’s Permit Center, or online.

Yes, you will need a permit for to replace your hot water heater. You can get an over-the-counter permit to for this at the Permit Center, or online.

Consult with a contractor and/or civil engineer.

Yes, you can make landscaping repairs without a permit. If you are repairing a hard surface (asphalt/concrete) driveway that goes to the public right of way, you will need an encroachment permit. You don’t need a permit if you are just regraveling your driveway.

Yes, most of the time but there are exceptions.

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