Flood management oversight hearing, part 2: The Who, What, Where & Why of Flood Control in the Central Valley

Sacramento River at the Fremont Weir Mar 2011 #30
The Sacramento River at Fremont Weir, March 2011
Legislators hear from the multiple agencies and organizations with flood management responsibilities in the Central Valley

In the Central Valley, there are 1600 miles of levees in the state-federal flood system (otherwise known as the State Plan of Flood Control), as well as many more miles of levees that are not part of the state-federal flood system but are included in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Flood Management System defined in the California Water Code Section 9611.  These thousands of miles of levees, along with the dams, bypasses, and other flood control infrastructure make it possible for the cities and farms to exist relatively safely on the valley floor.

However, flood risk can only be reduced but never eliminated.  Living behind a levee does mean living with the risk of flooding, as levees can and do fail for a variety of reasons, from overtopping and breaching during heavy storm events to rodent holes and erosion. Over 90% of floods occur as a result of excessive rainfall, excessive snowmelt, excessive runoff, levee failure or a combination of these sources.

Maintaining levees is not only a public safety concern; it’s also presents a financial liability concern for the state.  In the early 2000s, the landmark decision Paterno v. State of California determined that the State of California was liable for Linda Levee collapse in 1986 that cost two lives and damaged 3,000 homes.  Although the courts had originally found the levee failure to be due to poor design and construction by Yuba County, the Third District Court of Appeal held the state liable, stating that “when a public entity operates a flood control system built by someone else, it accepts liability as if it had planned and built the system itself.”  The ruling has cost the state $464 million.

With thousands of miles of levees criss-crossing the Central Valley protecting 7 million Californians and nearly $600 billion in assets, maintaining the system is both a public safety and liability concern.  In this second of two part coverage from the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife’s informational hearing on flood control planning and infrastructure held earlier this year, legislators heard from the variety of agencies which have flood management or levee responsibilities in the Central Valley.  (For part 1, see: Flood management oversight hearing, part 1:  Assessing California growing flood risk)

First, Leslie Gallagher from the Central Valley Flood Protection Board explained the role her agency has in maintaining the state-federal flood management system, and Melinda Terry described the important role the local agencies play in the day to day maintenance of the levees.  Gary Bardini from the Department of Water Resources discussed the Department’s flood management initiatives and Prop 1E financing, and Randy Fiorini from the Delta Stewardship Council talked about the Delta Levee Investment Strategy.  Finally, Rick Poeppelman from the Army Corps of Engineers described the federal government’s role, and Tina Curry from Cal Office of Emergency Services discussed the state’s response to flood disasters.

LESLIE GALLAGHER, General Counsel for and acting Executive Officer of the Central Valley Flood Protection Board

The Central Valley Flood Protection Plan and the role of the Board

The Central Valley Flood Protection Board is a regulatory agency that works to reduce the risk of catastrophic flooding to people and property within the Central Valley.

SPFC Facilities
The state-federal levee system spans from Red Bluff to Fresno, and includes portions of the Delta.

The CVFPB has jurisdictional authority over the State Plan of Flood Control system, a system which stretches from Red Bluff to Fresno and which protects more than one million people and $70 billion in assets across 1.7 million acres.  Under California law, any modification to the State Plan of Flood Control system, encroachment, or project on or near the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers or their tributaries must be approved by the Board.

The Central Valley Flood Protection Board is comprised of seven voting members who are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. The Board also has two ex-officio (non-voting) members, the Chair of the Assembly Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee and the Chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee.

Leslie Gallagher next briefed the legislators on the role that the Board plays in flood management.

Leslie GallagherFlood follows drought, and it is difficult to be a flood agency in the middle of a drought,” began Leslie Gallagher. “It’s hard to get traction and interest from the general public so I very much appreciate that this committee is interested in this topic. Keeping focus on it is very important, if for no other reason, just for we know we’re going to have another flood.”“The Central Valley Flood Protection Board is an independent agency but we work very closely with the Department of Water Resources, and lots of what this legislature has set up over the years has set that dynamic together,” she said. “With the historic Central Valley Flood Protection Plan in 2012, it was DWR that created the plan and the Board that adopted the plan, so there was that blending of the preparers and also the adopters.”

The Board has the regulatory responsibility for planning and maintaining the State Plan of Flood Control, the network of flood management facilities spanning the Central Valley from about Red Bluff to Fresno and includes facilities in the Delta. “What that means is that we are the agency that everyone, including other state agencies, need to come to if they want to do anything with the State Plan of Flood Control facilities,” explained Ms. Gallagher. “If you want to build something over it, if you want to affect it, go under it, you need to come to the board and we in turn work with the Army Corps of Engineers to get a letter of permission of them so that you know that whatever you are putting on the levees or around the levees is going to be safe and in accordance with standards.   That’s how we maintain the integrity of the existing system.”

Levee inspections have revealed several unauthorized encroachments, such as this wine cellar built into a Putah Creek levee
Levee inspections have revealed several unauthorized encroachments, such as this wine cellar built into a Putah Creek levee

The Central Valley Flood Protection Board also has enforcement authorities, she said. “In 2013, the legislature again gave us additional powers to make sure that we are able to get illegal encroachments out, some of which have existed for many years and some of which are very detrimental to the system,” she said. “We needed to have more teeth to be able to get those things, whether they were originally constructed with a permit or whether they were illegally constructed and then abandoned. We have a lot of different situations, so we are also the agency in charge of doing that.”

The Board is also the holder of the actual physical real estate upon which the facilities have been built and in charge of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Drainage District, the entity that owns the property where the levees are built, she explained. “So we have in addition to our regulatory obligations, we have landowner obligations and liabilities as well, and we take those very seriously for the state.”

The Central Valley Flood Protection Board evolved from the State Reclamation Board, which was created by the legislature in 1911. Ms. Gallagher explained that the Army Corps mostly built the facilities and turned them over to the state through the signing of assurance agreements. “The Board signed the assurance agreements, so the state is obligated to maintain in accordance with the operations and maintenance manuals,” she said. “We then, in turn, turned much of that over to local entities, which are the ones that are actually out there all the time, operating, maintaining, filling in the rodent holes and dealing with the erosion and all of those issues that come up. In some instances, it’s the state that does it. We have a lot of state maintained areas that also manage that, so it really is a state federal local partnership. Our piece is of that it through our regulatory authority.”

Click here for more on the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan.
Click here for more on the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan.

The Central Valley Flood Protection Plan (CVFPP) is a system-wide flood management approach to reduce the risk of flooding for about one million people and $70 billion in infrastructure, homes and businesses with a goal of providing 200-year (1 chance in 200 of flooding in any year) protection to urban areas, and reducing flood risks to small communities and rural agricultural lands.  The CVFPP proposes physical and system improvements in the Sacramento and San Joaquin River basins to address urban, small community and agricultural area flood protection while integrating ecosystem restoration opportunities and climate change considerations.  The plan was unanimously adopted by the Board in June of 2012.

Ms. Gallagher said that they’ve been working for two years on implementing the plan; Board is the non-federal or state partner with the Army Corps on large projects such as the American River Common Features and other work in Sacramento and West Sacramento.

Click to visit the CVFPP online.

There’s a new focus on what we call multi-benefit projects,” she said. “The large massive floodways are wet not very often, so when they aren’t, they are being used for other things. Managing what those other things are and how they can fit into habitat and recreation while still maintaining their primary purpose which is flood control, has really been a challenge for all of us. As we continue to work on that, we’re going to be very busy in the years to come.”

Discovery Bay is an unincorporated community and is officially known as the Town of Discovery Bay.  Photo taken September 19, 2014.
The Town of Discovery Bay is a 2200+ housing development in the south Delta. It is protected by levees that meet the 100-year flood standard.


MELINDA TERRY, Executive Director of the California Central Valley Flood Control Association

The role of local flood control agencies

The California Central Valley Flood Control Association was established in 1926 to promote the common interests of flood management in the Central Valley,” began Melinda Terry. “Our membership includes over 70 members that are either reclamation, levee districts, or cities and counties that also have flood control responsibilities. Although the State Plan of Flood Control system facilities are from Red Bluff down to Fresno, our membership is concentrated between Chico and Tracy. We don’t have members in the whole entire system, but everywhere in between, including the Delta.”

Melinda TerryThe Board often refers to my members as LMAs or Local Maintaining Agencies,” she said. “Those are typically the reclamation or levee districts, and they are the ones that literally every morning, drive and patrol the levee system. … They are doing the daily routine maintenance of the state’s flood control system. They also then help the Board and the State by take control of doing the design, planning, when there are improvements that need to be done, and they go through the permitting process for the state.” She noted that the reclamation and levee districts are governed by elected trustees for landowners within that leveed system.

Reclamation Districts are typically the first responders in a flood fight,” added Ms. Terry. “They are there with their equipment and fighting. They almost immediately have to turn it over to the state and federal government to take over, but they are the first responders.”

Cities and counties can also have flood control responsibilities in areas that they control, she said. “They are also key when it comes to flood, because they are the ones doing the land use and deciding how many people and buildings and assets are living behind those levees. They also have emergency response capabilities.”

Sacramento River at the Fremont Weir Mar 2011 #19
Fremont Weir, March 2011

Over the last couple of decades, Joint Power Agreements have been formed between urban areas, cities, counties, and Reclamation Districts to build larger civil works projects; those are ongoing, she noted.

The local issues are quite complex and they’ve really been changing over the recent years because we have a lot of conflicts,” she said. “You have to prioritize public safety but we’re also constantly chasing federal eligibility for reimbursement money, and that’s meeting certain levee standards, and to meet those standards is expensive. Our members have to balance landowner expectations for flood protection versus the state assurances that they’ve given to the federal government and what we need to do for the state. So we’ve got multiple bosses doing this tug of war with us.”

We also have changing societal expectations,” she said. “One of the reasons that we had $4 billion worth of bonds passed in 2006 was because of a hurricane. You might say why, we don’t have hurricanes in Sacramento. Because the flooding that occurred in Louisianna was not because of the hurricane, it was the levee failure. … then it became about where was the next highest risk place in the United States? It’s Sacramento, because we have 1600 miles, the largest flood system. But unfortunately as the hurricane goes away, then droughts happen, people forget , and interest wanes so you go from $4 billion to really $100 million, because $295 million of the new bond is really just for the Delta. It really changes the dynamics over time of the state’s ability to maintain the system they have responsibility for.”

Click here to visit the CCVFCA online.

The next year after the bonds passed, the legislature then passed a big package of bills, one of those created a higher level of protection for the urban areas within the State Plan of Flood Control, she explained.

They mandated a brand-new 200 level year of protection, which was not defined and still is not really defined, and so now, our cities and counties are under a deadline to try to get that done, and that will affect their ability to have any growth. Natomas is a good example of what happens. You get a moratorium when you’re unable to meet those accomplishments,” Ms. Terry said.

And with that …

Floodwaters overtop the Fremont Weir and flow into the Yolo Bypass in March of 2011.

GARY BARDINI, Deputy Director for the Department of Water Resources

FloodSAFE and Prop 1E Financing

The Department of Water Resources Division of Flood Management is responsible for statewide flood forecasting, flood operations, and other key flood emergency response activities.  The Division includes the Hydrology and Flood Operations Office, the Delta-Suisun Marsh Office, the Flood Projects Office, the Levee Repairs and Floodplain Management Office, and the Flood Maintenance Office.

Gary Bardini 1The Department of Water Resources also works in partnership with the Central Valley Flood Protection Board through the FloodSAFE initiative, which partners with local, regional, state, tribal, and federal officials in creating sustainable, integrated flood management and emergency response systems throughout California.

Gary Bardini next briefed the legislators on the role of the Department and the implementation of bond funds.  He began by noting that a number of things that happened in the administration last year, one of them being the California Water Action Plan which highlighted a number of areas related to water reliability, restoration, water quality improvements, and Delta management; more importantly, it also reinforces the need for improvements in flood management, along with the aspects of financing. There was also the passage of Prop 1 and groundwater legislation, he added.

Why I think all of these are important is because they really were significant changes in where we are moving in water management, ultimately trying to move towards sustainable water management in the state,” he said. “Sustainable means dealing with too little and in the other cases too much.”

The Department of Water Resources typically organizes itself around the management of that in three major areas,” he said. “One is to continue to strengthen regional governance and management and the aspects of local assistance and financial assistance; we also provide significant technical and planning support, and then lastly we deal with a lot of the interregional management of infrastructure improvements and management of system, not only the State Water Project but also the State Plan of Flood Control.”

Flood Futures Report
Click here for the Flood Futures report.

The major drivers in flood management have essentially been two reports, the Flood Futures report which provides a statewide perspective of the flood management challenges and the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan in 2012. “Within that, it really recognizes the challenges of essentially both the loss of life potential, and more importantly, the aspects of the actual consequences economically that occur,” he said.

In 2006, California voters approved two bonds, Proposition 1E and Proposition 84 which provided more than $5 billion in funding to meet long term flood protection goals.  The Central Valley Flood Protection Plan has been the predominant focus of the current financing, both on Prop 1E and 84, he said. “We recognize that in the challenges within that system of maintaining the urban economies, protecting agriculture, and maintaining the ecosystems in which the system lies. We laid out a plan of essentially estimating at $14 to $17 billion of an investment needed moving forward.”

Click here to find out more about DWR’s FloodSAFE programs and initiatives.

Flood Safe initiatives have also helped to improve that system. “If you look at the the period since 2006, the State of California, working with the money of the folks around this table, has invested over $3 billion in that. We’re looking at putting three-quarters or so of the current bond financing and culminating with the remaining $1 billion or so plus that we look to do over the next five years. Within that, we partner closely with local agencies and federal agencies.”

The Department of Water Resources works on emergency management programs, performs operations and maintenance on channels and levees, operates an extensive flood plain management program, works with FEMA to address floodplain management issues, and continues project improvements. “Typically the project improvements in the Central Valley have been focused on three principle areas: continuation of the rural management, the urban areas, and providing larger system improvements like the bypass or etc,” he said.

We are in a period of extensive implementation with the bond funds, but we’re also looking towards the planning of a post-bond period and with the adoption of the 2017 Central Valley Flood Plan,” he said. “Within that, we will basically focus much not only the improvement side of where to go beyond the initial estimates, but we’ll also be looking for how to improve our operation and maintenance, along with residual flood risk and emergency management.”

Lastly, I think the thorniest issues are the aspects of stable financing and financing for flood management,” Mr. Bardini said. “Particularly the multi-benefits side in connection will be a challenge moving forward, and we hope to shape that conversation in the 2017 plan.”

Aerial view showing the Jones Tract levee break, June 3, 2004.
The Jones Tract levee break in the Delta, June of 2004.

RANDY FIORINI, Chairman of the Delta Stewardship Council

The Delta Levee Investment Strategy

Randy Fiorini began by saying that the Delta Stewardship Council is the relative newcomer, having been created in 2009 as part of the Delta Reform Act. “It was in that reform act that the legislature for the first time declared as state policy towards the Delta that must henceforth serve the coequal goals of achieving water supply reliability for the state and a healthy restored ecosystem in the Delta, and at the same time, recognizing the uniqueness of the Delta; that the activities of the Delta Stewardship Council are to protect and enhance the unique values of the Delta as an evolving place.”

Randy FioriniThe legislature directed the Council to develop a Delta Plan as an overall management strategy for achieving those coequal goals,” he said. “The Delta Plan provides a management blueprint for the Delta and the Suisun Marsh. After three years of development, the plan was adopted in May of 2013 and is now in the implementation stage. The Council coordinates the actions of some 200 state, local, and federal agencies to ensure that agency actions are consistent with the Delta Plan. The Delta Plan is consistent with the Governor’s Water Action Plan.”

In 2009, the legislature decided that the limited amount of state money now and in the future to address levee work in the Delta would be far less than the needs, and so the Council was assigned the job of determining prioritization funding for levee work in the Delta,” he said. “Our job is to figure out and rationalize how to prioritize spending in the Delta to fulfill the state’s responsibilities for a myriad of areas, including risk protection, water quality, water supply, and ecosystem needs.”

DWR Delta Minor Slough #4
There are over 1100 miles of levees in the Delta.

The Delta Levee Investment Strategy process is underway, Mr. Fiorini said. “We have contracted with the RAND corporation and with the Dutch engineering firm ARCADIS to assist our competent staff. As directed by the legislature, best available science will be employed, and our Delta Science Program will be providing scientific guidance and review throughout the process. We have already conducted several outreach meetings with local agencies and experts in the Delta and we’ll continue to rely heavily on their input. We’re working closely with each of the agencies here at the table.”

Click here for a fact sheet on the Delta Levee Investment Strategy.
Click here for a fact sheet on the Delta Levee Investment Strategy.

This process the legislature designated to us will be controversial, but it is an open, transparent, and accountable process,” he said. “The outcome will lead to determining the most cost effective portfolio of state investments in support of the Delta levee system.”

The Delta levees issue paper highlights the 12 key questions the Council will be attempting to answer as the strategy is developed. “We’ll fulfill our job as responsibly as possible and give direction to the legislature and the Governor as to what should be done,” he said. “Our final report is expected to be provided sometime next year.”In April of 2014, the Army Corps recently released the draft Delta Islands and Levees Feasibility Study which determined that there is no federal interest in two-thirds of the levees, the privately owned levees in the Delta, because the cost would exceed the value protected by the levees in their view, Mr. Fiorini said. “That is a loss that was anticpated of about $500 million of federal funding that is not going to be provided if that view continues,” he said.

Delta Stewardship Council new logo
Click here to visit the DSC online.

Additionally, the Delta Protection Commission is in the process of studying the feasibility of creating a regional assessment district that can raise funds to complement those provided by the state and local landowners. “Currently, there are a number of activities, agencies, entities in the Delta that don’t contribute in a large way in support of Delta levee maintenance,” he said. “Entities such as utilities, transportation, and railroads so this attempt to determine the feasibility of a assessment district is designed to try and attract some additional funding.”

So with that …

Folsom Dam Spillway
Work continues on the construction of the Folsom Dam auxiliary spillway in February of 2015. The Army Corps is partnering with the Bureau of Reclamation and state partners on the project to reduce flood risk throughout the Sacramento region.

RICK POEPPELMAN, Levee Safety Officer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The State Plan of Flood Control and the role of the Army Corps

The Army Corps of Engineers is a federal agency under the Department of Defense charged with developing, maintaining, and supporting the Nation’s economically vital waterway infrastructure, as well as supporting effective and targeted flood protection and environmental restoration needs. This infrastructure includes the project levees included in California’s State Plan of Flood Control.

Rick PeoppelmanRick Poeppelman began by noting that the Army Corps has a large presence in California. “We have a district office in San Francisco that deals with the coastal area, and in Southern California we have a Los Angeles district office that deals with things down there,” he said. “The Sacramento District is one of our larger districts in the entire Corps, and part of that’s because of the flood situation and all the projects that we have out there.”

The thing I wanted to emphasize the most is the partnership,” he said. “You’ve heard the multi-layers of government, and it is true. We are integral; we talk every day with the Central Valley Flood Protection Board and the Department of Resources. We are in regular meetings, whether it’s for our planning studies that dovetail with what the state’s doing, and some of the ongoing design and construction work, so there’s constant coordination and communication. It has it’s own challenges, it doesn’t mean its perfect, but there is significant effort of partnering going on.”

Replacing gates at New Hogan Dam
Army Corps engineers inspect the new gates being installed at New Hogan Dam in March of 2015.

In the civil works mission of the Corps, we plan, design, construct, and in some cases operate, but mostly we help oversee operations and maintenance from a federal perspective on projects where we’ve participated,” Mr. Peoppelman said. “There’s also emergency response when we’re called in to help in large disasters. A lot of times the state takes that action and usually FEMA is part of that.”

There are 6500 miles of levees in the Central Valley, and about 1600 are part of the federal system which are on the main stem of the Sacramento, the San Joaquin and some of the significant tributaries, he said. There are about 34 dams that have flood control space; about half of those we operate directly and the other half, it’s the state, Bureau of Reclamation or local flood control or irrigation districts; all of that gets coordinated and ties into the levee systems, he said.

The Army Corps does not own any of the levees, Mr. Poeppelman pointed out. “We provide the federal oversight and we work closely with the Local Maintaining Agencies, flood control districts, reclamation districts, the Central Valley Flood Protection Board and DWR to make that work.”

Levee inspection
Army Corps crews inspect a levee on the Sacramento River in 2013.

Besides technical capability, the Army Corps also brings significant funding to the table, he said. “That’s been a bit of a struggle for the federal government to figure that out, but for planning studies that we participate in, it’s a 50/50 cost share, usually, between feds and locals. Then when we get into that next phase where we’re designing and constructing, it’s typically about a 65% federal and a 35% state-local government cost share, so that’s a big part of what we do and how we help.”

Hurricane Katrina heightened our awareness and funding that goes into levees, so the Crops has been on a five year cycle to do detailed periodic inspections of levee systems across the country to assess their condition, as well as examine the risks involved, he said. “Risk is really the probability of failure plus the consequences or what’s behind the levees that equates to risk, so from a national standpoint, being able to prioritize across the country where we should be pointing our limited federal dollars,” he said. “It’s clear that Sacramento and the Central Valley, so a lot of significant urban areas behind levees that we know weren’t originally engineered and constructed very well, or they just haven’t been funded for the proper O&M over the years.”

Levee work River Park
Army Corps construction crews work on a levee at River Park in Sacramento.

Significant issues include encroachments such as buildings or abandoned pipes, rodent activities, and other things that inhibit the performance of the levee directly or inhibit operation and maintenance, he said.  “Frankly there was a little bit of pain getting that going, but I think the response from the Central Valley Flood Protection Board and the LMAs has been fantastic, realizing that they need to figure out how to do this,” he said. “We’re seeing significant improvements in the last few years as a result of our inspections and our coordination with DWR.”

Overall flood protection is part of our planning process,” he said. “It’s really about risk, how do we invest our limited dollars, and where’s the right place to make that investment first, so we want to look at those high risk areas and make sure we’re doing that first and then work our way down from a risk perspective.”

Army Corps Logo
Click here to visit the Army Corps online.

The Folsom Dam flood control project is moving along, the Natomas levee system improvements have been authorized and appropriated to finish the work that the state and SAFCA partnered on, and the Sutter Basin project has been authorized but is being done by the locals and the state because the federal government does not have the money to fund it, he said. “There are also big planning studies nearing completion, and the Corps is working closely with the state on the the American River and Sacramento River levees, the West Sacramento project, and the Stockton area levee projects.”

I want to thank the state for inviting us over. I think we have a complicated but very productive and strong partnership,” Mr. Peoppelman concluded.

American River levee work
Army Corps construction crews work on the levees along the American River in Sacramento.

TINA CURRY, Deputy Director with Cal OES

Flood Preparedness and Emergency Response

Tina Curry then discussed the role of the Office of Emergency Services. “Our job, in short, is to coordinate the overall response to emergencies in California in support of local governments who are going to be facing those emergencies,” she said. “We’ve talked about fires and floods and drought, even though we’re here to talk about floods, obviously our mission is very broad and we need to be ready for all those things.”

Tina Curry 2Floods are clearly important, second to fires in California as the most frequent things that happen in this state, and even though it’s been awhile, we recognize that that’s one of our main priorities in terms of being ready for disaster events,” she said.

There is a standard system for responding to emergencies called the Standardized Emergency Management System, she said. “We lock in to that system when something happens and it facilitates the communication about what’s going on,” she said. “It facilitates the deployment of resources to attend to the problems that might be happening in communities, and it does it in a way that thinks about consequences, so whether it’s an evacuation that is needed or flood fight or what have you, there’s a common understanding and a common system that we use and that over time in California has proven to be the best way to deal with all kinds of emergencies is to establish that commonality.”

It’s the system we use for flood response, she said. “As an example, in December we had a series of storms in California,” she said. “It certainly didn’t rise to the level of some of the more catastrophic disasters and floods, but it was significant. We saw it coming, we heard the weather service reports, our local governments activated their emergency centers and we did as well, so we were ready for it and sure enough we had problems in several communities. We worked very closely with DWR’s Flood Operations Center, we understood when that stood up what that means and what they were working on and we were able to help communities during the response phase to get resources out there as things emerged during the event.”

Members of the California Conservation Corps prepare and perform a flood fight simulation. 12/2012
Emergency personnel perform flood disaster drills regularly.

Typically in flood response, we’ll activate the center, which allows us to have a deliberate way to work across the spectrum of state government families, not only DWR but Cal Trans, the Highway Patrol, and others, she said. “The system also allows us access using the same structure to the federal government, so we’ve got federal government agencies that match up with our state agencies and can enhance that capability if we need to pull that into our system to help out with a disaster,” she said. “The Army Corps is a natural, one that we think of frequently, and will be one of the first that’s responding to a flood event, should that happen in California.”

The system also allows access to non-government partners such as the Red Cross, as well as the private sector. There are often utility problems, so the system works to eliminated barriers to working with the private sector restore utilities and shorten the disruption, she said.

Are you at risk?  Click here to find out more.
Do you know your flood risk? Click here to find out.

The system is in California what we would use in flood and it has served us well in over different disasters, including the drought,” she said. “The drought’s been a little more slow moving but significant for California and we’ve used those techniques and that same system to manage that.”

The role of the Office of Emergency Services goes beyond response, she said. “We have more that we do besides waiting for something to happen and dealing with it,” Ms. Curry said. “We write emergency plans for California that articulate our response and how we are committed to investing and lessening the effects of disasters with hazard mitigation. … We also facilitate the recovery from disasters, so once the response and the life saving actions are completed, we know we have to help communities start to recover some of the losses and rebuild if there’s damages. … There are other federal agencies and state programs that we pull together in a similar structure to deal with the long haul and the long term recovery from disasters.”

Cal OES logo
Click here to visit Cal OES online.

So that was very short synopsis of Cal OES’s role in disasters, including flood response. We maintain a readiness posture so that we’re ready to respond; we don’t know when something will happen next,” Ms. Curry said. “We see ourselves as full-spectrum, that we’re there in times of emergency and also when we’re not in an emergency, to make sure that we’re better prepared.”

DWR Homes behind levee Stockton
More homes under construction behind a levee in Stockton.
Discussion highlights

Disc Marc LevineChair Levine notes that the Governor’s proposed budget has $1.1 billion of Prop 1E money in it. “Where should it be spent? How do we direct those resources?” he asks.

Melinda Terry replied that there are several lists; each agency likely maintains a list of projects. She also noted that the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan that was approved in 2012 split the State Plan of Flood Control System into six regions, and those regions came up with regional flood management plans, so there are the lists the exist as a result of those activities.

“$1.1 billion is a lot of money to spend all in one year, so I would like to hear from the Department, is it a phased spending? And how that’s going to work but those large civil works projects are ongoing and will need that continue funding to get them up,” Ms. Terry said. “The cities and counties really still need to get up to that 200 year level of protection. They were given a legislative deadline to be able to show adequate progress by 2016. That’s important. Not to be forgotten, we can’t really forget the rural levees, because to make the system work, as you make the urban levees better, you potentially have to make the rural ones a little bit better.”

Disc BardiniGary Bardini said that one of the limiting factors for moving projects is not only getting through the design and permitting process, but there are always the aspects of the cost share between both federal state and local agencies, so the availability of the federal budget to support many of the projects is a factor. “The ability to raise capital under Prop 218 is an issue for the local agencies, so we’re always in a balance between all three levels of government with their budgets,” he said.

The Central Valley Flood Protection Plan reflects a prioritization of moving not only to essentially urban improvements, but for system improvements like the bypass,” Mr. Bardini continued. “I think we’re making progress on that and alignment among agencies. Those take longer to bring to readiness, but I think the aspects of broader benefit or value are significant. We have to maintain a rural system and we need to continue to progress that with a lot of the maintaining agencies.”

Chair Levine said that he hears often how the Delta is a critical piece to the flood control puzzle, and asks what is being done to deal with that.

Disc Randy FioriniThe legislature reached the point in 2009 that said we have so many demands in support of a healthy Delta levee system and the funds just don’t measure up to the level of demand, so the Delta Stewardship Council was assigned the responsibility to develop a prioritization plan,” responded Randy Fiorini. “While we are developing the finer points in that, there exists today in the Delta Plan, guidance the prioritizes urban protection and then protection of assets and then thirdly, agricultural value property. That’s an oversimplification, but that’s useful, enough detail for these purposes.

Over the last several years, the Department of Water Resources has funded through the subventions program matching funds to the reclamation districts that are in the Delta in support of those local projects as well as cooperating with the Central Valley Flood Protection Board in their projects on the periphery,” he said. “We have essentially a practice now in the Delta of attempting to bring up all levees to a minimum standard, and that minimum standard probably varies whether its urban protection or agricultural protection, but currently only about 31% of the levees meet a minimum standard, so we’ve got a long ways to go. The Department and the limited funds that they have distributed have been directed at trying to address those areas that are out of standard and to bring them up. At the rate that we’re going, it’s going to take many, many years to even meet that minimum standard.”

Disc Melinda TerryThe flood system was designed and built in the early 20th century but then became a convenient water conveyance system because where that water is coming from is the same place the floodwaters come from, Melinda Terry said. “Those levees became the conveyance system and the Delta became the hub for the pumping to be able to export that water to where our growing population is located,” she said.

There are two different types of flows to be managed, flows for water supply and flood flows. “Now we have a large population where there’s health and safety issue of having drinking water available to them, so from a political sense, they are more powerful and they can beat that drum louder as it is really important to them,” Ms. Terry continued. “The population that’s protected by the flood system is much smaller and our drum often does not beat as loudly and we don’t often get as much attention.”

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