Delta Stewardship Council: October update on the Delta Levee Prioritization Strategy

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At the October meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council, Supervising Engineer Dustin Jones provided the council with a monthly update on the progress of the development of the Delta levee prioritization strategy.

The Delta Stewardship Council was directed to develop the strategy by the 2009 Delta Reform Act that will guide state investments in Delta levees that considers the assets protected by the levees, the exposure to risks, beneficiaries of levee protection, and appropriate cost share allocation.

Mr. Jones update covered four areas:

Methodology Development

Staff is continuing to work with Arcadis and their sub-consultants on the continued coordination of data gathering related to the Delta Islands and their conditions. This includes gathering information on assets, beneficiaries, and the threats and hazards for the Delta islands that will be used in the analysis. Information received so far has come from the Department of Water Resources and the Delta Protection Commission, and they are also starting to engage with the reclamation districts and various stakeholders to gather information from them as well. These data collection efforts are continuing.

Independent Scientific Review Panel

The Lead Scientist has completed the charge to the independent peer review panel that will review the methodology used to develop the levee investment prioritization tool; that charge is linked here. The charge asks the panel to consider the relevance, credibility, and transparency of the methodology, as well as any additional perspectives. The panel with be comprised of seven experts in the fields of geotechnical and seismic, integrated risk management, flood management and hydrology, human and social issues, economics, environmental land use change, and integrated modeling. The members of the panel have agreed to participate and so contracts are being prepared. The peer review process is scheduled to start in April of 2015.

Stakeholder Outreach

A communication and outreach strategy has been completed outlining the engagement process, project timeline, key events and milestones. Key elements of the strategy will be posted on the Council’s website.

Oct DSC JonesThroughout October, staff has been heavily engaged with stakeholder outreach, including meeting with the State Water Contractors, Metropolitan Water District, the Central Valley Flood Protection Board, and consulting engineers representing multiple reclamation districts within the Delta. Staff has also made presentations to the California Water Commission and the Central Valley Flood Protection Board. In November, staff will be presenting to the Delta Protection Commission, and the Delta Plan Interagency Implementation Committee. Staff continues to schedule informal outreach sessions and additional sessions are in the plans.

Staff has started working on developing the pool of technical expertise. Over 100 emails invitations were sent out to individuals that have been identified as having technical expertise within various areas of the Delta, along with the invitation to forward the email on to any other experts who might want to be involved. “We’ve already starting receiving confirmation from several folks already that are anxious to be involved with the project and to lend any expertise that we can use, so that will be very useful,” Mr. Jones said.

A page has been established on the Council website for the project, which includes a listserv for those interested in receiving email updates. View the page here.  The Council will be updating the webpage with new fact sheets and information when it becomes available.

Next steps: Staff will continue to engage the stakeholders. The first public meeting is being tentatively scheduled for the first week of December with a meeting in the north Delta and a meeting in the south Delta.

Delta Levee Investment Issue Paper

The comment period for Delta levee the issue paper closed on October 27. They received feedback from six different organizations; their comments have been substantial and significant, in general about three to four pages. “I’m working through those comments right now to organize them and evaluate them,” Mr. Jones said. “Our next steps will be to reach back out to any agencies if we need clarification on any of the comments they’ve made, and to start formulating answers and responses to the comments and working in any criteria within the issue paper that we would like to make improvements with.” After the comments have been addressed, staff will be following up in the next few months to finalize the paper.

I can’t stress this enough, this is a system out there, and I don’t see ‘systems’ in this document,” said Council member Larry Ruhstaller. “The levees are out there and they do provide support to each other, even though they may not be the armored corridor that brings the water to the pumps. I don’t know how to stress that enough, other than to continue to stress talking to the engineers that actually work on those islands every year.

OCT DSC RuhstallerMr. Ruhstaller asked if there was a way to compile a list of the work that has been done or quantify the amount of money spent working on the levees over the last several decades. “Even yesterday at one of the [Bay-Delta science] conference sessions, I had to listen again to these levees were built by the poor Chinese 400 years ago and they are made out of peat soils that crumble and blow away in the wind, but they are not all that way,” he said. “I’m not trying to say these levees are perfect; I’m just saying they are not as bad as some portray them to be.”

We are working with Department of Water Resources staff to gather the funding information they have readily available on their subventions and special projects programs, so we are going through, getting as much cost information as we can about what the locals have spent on an RD basis and also what the state’s share has been, we have been going through that and gathering information, so we do hope to include that in the next round,” replied Mr. Jones.

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