Overview of the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan 2017 update

CVFPP SSIAStaff from Central Valley Flood Protection Board and DWR brief the Delta Stewardship Council on the update to the Central Valley Flood Protection Board to prepare for upcoming joint meeting

The Delta Reform Act set out several tasks for the Delta Stewardship Council, among them that they lead a multi-agency effort to update priorities for State investments in the Delta levee system to reduce the likelihood and consequences of levee failures, to protect people, property, and State interests while advancing the coequal goals.  The Delta Reform Act also states that the Council shall consult with the Flood Board to recommend priorities for State investments in levees, including those that are a part of the State Plan of Flood Control (SPFC) as well as non-project levees.

Tomorrow, the Delta Stewardship Council and the Central Valley Flood Protection board are holding a joint meeting for the purpose of consulting with the Flood Board on the Council’s activities, and in particular, the development of the Delta Levee Investment Strategy.  The Council is coordinating with the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan and the Department of Water Resources so that the Delta Levees Investment Strategy will describe an overall, coordinated strategy and priorities for levee investments in both the urban and rural parts of the Delta, as well as Suisun Marsh.

In order to prepare the Council members and the Flood Protection Board members for this joint meeting, staff from the Flood Board and DWR briefed the Council at their July meeting about the development of the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan and the 2017 update, as well as other key activities of the Flood Board.  On hand for the presentation was Leslie Gallagher, Executive Officer of the Central Valley Flood Protection Board; Michael Mierzwa, Lead Flood Management Planner for the Department of Water Resources; and Nancy Moricz, also with the Central Valley Flood Protection Board.

Here’s what they had to say.

LESLIE GALLAGER, Executive Officer of the Central Valley Flood Protection Board

Leslie Gallagher began by giving some background on the Central Valley Flood Protection cvfpb_logoBoard, which used to be known as the Reclamation Board until 2007.  “The Board has long been in what used to be called the flood control business; but we talk about maintenance a lot now because there’s not a lot you can do to control floods,” she said.

More recent emphasis on the environment and endangered species protection has challenged levee system maintainers with the uncertainty of climate change, that makes it even more uncertain and it’s a greater challenge for some of our long-term planners,” she said.  “The Board’s approach is to emphasize collaboration and a partnership approach to managing public safety and that is what is exemplified in the governor’s California Water Action Plan.  DSC GallagherThe Brown Administration created the Water Action Plan as a road map to put California on a path to sustainable water management, and our Board recognizes that much of the flood protection system is part of the water supply system and it’s a unique ecosystem, so in many ways it’s a larger subset of what you deal with in the Delta.”

While public safety is our primary goal, we share other public values such as economic stability, ecosystem restoration, and recreational opportunities and to the extent feasible, we look to be including these priorities in both the operations and maintenance as we permit flood system improvements,” she said.

The subject of today’s presentation is the 2017 update to the historic Central Valley Flood Protection Plan, originally adopted by the Board in 2012.  The Plan is at program level, covering potential federal, state, and local actions associated with the State Plan of Flood Control.

Ms. Gallagher then turned the presentation over to Michael Mierzwa to go into the details of the plan.

MICHAEL MIERZWA, Lead Flood Management Planner for the Department of Water Resources

Michael Mierzwa then gave a presentation on the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan, discussing what the plan is and what will be included in the 2017 update.

The Central Valley Flood Protection Plan is a strategic blueprint to improve flood risk management in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River basins,” said Mr. Mierzwa.  “It provides recommendations to guide both near and long-term state investments for the State Plan of Flood Control Facilities, and the areas protected by the State Plan of Flood Control facilities.  It’s a programmatic plan, it’s not a funding decision nor a permitting decision document.  It’s a dynamic plan, and by law it’s required to be updated in 5-year cycles.  The 2017 will represent the first of these update cycles.”

The scope of the plan was adopted and defined by the Central Valley Flood Protection Act of 2008; it focuses on the lands protected by the State Plan of Flood Control facilities which are shown in the graphic here in orange.  The areas in blue are not necessarily protected by the SFPC facilities but they are impacted by those facilities.”

The State Plan of Flood Control is defined within the context of the water code and funding decisions through additional commitments that are made over time by the state,” he said.  “The Central Valley Flood Protection Plan coordinates and aligns with other major flood management efforts and related resources.”

The primary goal of the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan to improve flood risk management was based on the legislative requirements in the Central Valley Flood Protection Act.  The Plan also has four supporting goals: to improve operations and maintenance, promote important ecosystems, promote multi-benefit projects and improve institutional support.  “The supporting goals were also outlined within the context of SB 5 and the 2008 Central Valley Flood Protection Act, and these same goals have been carried over into the 2017 update for the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan,” Mr. Mierzwa said.

CVFPP_Page_07One of the key outcomes of the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan was the State Systemwide Investment Approach.  He presented a diagram, explaining that the primary goal of improving flood risk management is shown on the bottom axis,  and on the horizontal axis are the four other supporting goals: operations and maintenance, ecosystem, institutional support, and multi-benefit projects.  The four circles represent the four alternatives described in the 2012 Central Valley Flood Protection Plan, with the size of the circle representing the estimated cost range it would take to achieve the actions in the portfolio within each of those alternatives.

In 2012, the State Systemwide Investment Approach had an estimated cost range of $14-17 billion, and an implementation timeline of about 25 years.  “The items within that State Systemwide Investment Approach represents a blend of elements and items that were considered in the other what we call formulation alternatives,” he said.

DSC MierzwaThe first alternative shown on the left is the Achieve State Plan of Flood Control Design Capacity Approach.  “This particular approach was required by SB 5 as one of the analyses for us to look at, and the intent of that approach was to go through and discover what would the cost be and the benefits for us just going and actually restoring the system to its as-designed capacities, which were currently not the condition of the system when we began the study back in 2007.  The cost range for that alternative was $19 to $23 billion, and the implementation time to achieve all the recommendations in that approach would be 30 years time.”

The second alternative was the Protect High Risk Communities Approach.  “A key component of the Central Valley Flood Protection Act was the finding of a 200-year level of protection for urban areas, and so that particular approach was designed to meet as quickly as possible the highest risk reductions for those urban areas so they could achieve the 200-year level of flood protection.  The cost estimates were significantly less because it was a very focused set of alternatives, and the implementation time frame for that was also quicker with an estimated 10 years to complete projects if we were to intensify only addressing the high risk areas at first.”

The third alternative was the Enhanced Flood System Capacity Approach, the broadest of the approaches considered in 2012.  “It had an estimated cost range of $32 to $41 billion and implementation time frame of about 40 years.  Some of the elements that were considered in there also included storage projects as well as incorporating setbacks throughout the system to allow room for the rivers to reduce the risk in our flood plains and to the areas protecting by those levees.

The State Systemwide Investment Approach represented some of the best elements through all of those alternatives and approaches, Mr. Mierzwa said.  “One of the considerations in development of the State Systemwide Investment Approach was the implementation time frame that would be appropriate.  We ended up selecting a 25 year implementation time frame, recognizing that within the Central Valley, there is a history in the past 50 years of about every 10 – 15 years of actually record-breaking flood event coming through and affecting large areas of the Central Valley.”

Statistically speaking, we’re long overdue for such a flood, but the realization is that if we had too broad a plan, not only would we not have the immediate near-term or long-term financing to go through and implement those actions, but the ability to get some of the later long-term investments on the ground before we could improve those investments would fundamentally change as we would possible have two major floods come through and cause us to reformulate what we’re looking at,” he said.

CVFPP_Page_08He presented Table 3-2 from the 2012 Plan.  “We went through all of the flood management elements and described in general the project location required components for each of the three formulation alternatives, enhanced flood capacity approach to protect high risk communities, and then the achieve SPFC design capacity approach,” said Mr. Mierzwa.  “Based off of our assessment and it’s documented within the context of both the plan and its supporting attachments, we selected a subset of those actions to blend and pull into the State Systemwide Investment Approach.”

CVFPP_Page_09Within the 2012 plan was the financing plan developed in Chapter 4.  He presented Table 4-3 from the 2012 plan, which lists three eras in which five major programs will need to be funded:  The Flood Emergency Response Program, the Flood System Operations and Maintenance program, the Floodplain Risk Management Program, the Flood Risk Reduction Program, and the program called Flood System Assessment, Engineering Feasibility and Permitting, which will be renamed to simply ‘planning’ in the 2017 update.  The rows on the chart represent different time frames (or eras) with 2007-2011 representing the near-term early implementation actions and investments that were made by the state before the completion and adoption of the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan; the 2012 to 2017 period represents the investments for the near-term as outlined by the 2012 Plan; and then the remainder was pushed into a 2018 and beyond investment range.

The costs for all the programs over all the eras ranges from $13 to $17 billion, which represents the cost share of local, state, and federal interests.  “Some of that money was described in the plan was cash on hand from the sales of Prop 1E and 84, and then the rest of that money is what is needed to work on new financing mechanisms to secure that funding to be implemented in the future,” he said.  “Those efforts have also been refined for the update in 2017.”

CVFPP_Page_11Mr. Mierzwa noted that there have been a lot of policy drivers and changes that have been implemented since the adoption of the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan, the most notable of which is sitting the Governor’s California Water Action Plan that was adopted in January of 2014 and went through an update in January 2016.  There was also the release in 2013 of the report, California’s Flood Future, which was a collaboration with over 200 local agencies, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the Department of Water Resources, and the finding of that report were 7 key recommendations and a level of investment of $100 billion worth of projects across the state that could be implemented to reduce flood risk.

Other influential reports include the State Plan of Flood Control, a living document and key to all of the Board’s flood management activities associated with the State Plan of Flood Control system, and a report commissioned in 2007 by the Department of Water Resources in 2007 in which an independent panel was created to come up with strategic recommendations on how we could comprehensively reduce flood risk.  “The recommendations of that plan have been incorporated into our thinking and the update of the 2017 Central Valley Flood Protection Plan,” he said.

Mr. Mierzwa reminded that this 2017 is just an update of the 2012 plan; it’s not a new document.  “We’re looking at things that have changed in ways to implement the recommendations of the 2012 plan based on the changes from policy perspectives, flood risk perspectives, and also financing capabilities,” he said.

CVFPP_Page_12The Governor’s Water Action Plan had 10 recommendations; recommendation #8 is to increase flood protection.  “The language and text within the Governor’s Water Action Plan was foundationally based off the recommendations from the California Flood Future Report of 2013 and is completely consistent with everything within the 2012 Central Valley Flood Protection Plan, as well as our update,” he said.  “It’s also important to note that the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan contributes to action 2, which is to increase the regional self-reliance and water management across all levels of government; It also contributes to action 4, which is protect and restore important ecosystems;  Action 6 which is to expand storage capacity and improve groundwater management, and then actions 9 and 10 which are to increase the regulatory efficiency and to identify sustainable and integrated financing opportunities.”

CVFPP_Page_13Through the course of the update, they are revising the State Systemwide Investment Approach.  “What you’re seeing in this graphic is a bubble that has moved in a more positive direction for our primary goal and a more positive direction for the four supporting goals.  It is a slightly larger bubble which is indicating that the costs for the 2017 update state systemwide investment approach has increased, but there’s justification for that.”

Mr. Mierzwa said there are four key efforts that were worked on in collaboration with local agencies, NGOs, and the federal government and other stakeholders over the past four years to inform which actions would be included in the 2017 update of the State Systemwide Investment Approach:  the conservation strategy; the operations, maintenance, repair, rehabilitation, and replacement report; two basin wide feasibility studies, one for the Sacramento basin, and a separate one for the San Joaquin basin; and six state funded regional flood management plans, where local agencies worked together to come up with their recommendations of actions – both policy and actual physical actions – they could take that could reduce flood risk within their regions.

The level of study and detail within the studies varies, so the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan and the State Systemwide Investment Approach represents a blending of actions that range from conceptual down to some fairly detailed plans and specifications, he said.   The conceptual level is pretty much ideas; appraisal levels have a little bit of detail and technical work completed; at the feasibility levels, the Corps of Engineers goes through detailed processes and procedures to come up with a very specific recommendation; site-specific plans; and design-level specifications.

Design-level specifications include some of the original designs and specifications from the 1953 and 1955 agreements between the state and the local agencies to basically create the State Plan of Flood Control, the most notable of which is represented in the 1955 and 1957 water surface profiles for the Sacramento and San Joaquin River basin respectively.”

CVFPP_Page_15In Chapter 3 of the update, they will discuss the differences between planning and implementation, with the intent that they will describe why they are doing things, linking down to societal goals, and to what we call flood specific outcomes, he said.

Chapter 3 will also discuss enabling conditions, he said.  “These are the things we need to address in order to make more effective actions and to make better use of our dollars and time.  It’s really getting into how we’re going to do business in the future.  Policies, funding issues, programmatic permitting considerations, data and tools, legal authorities, staffing considerations, programs and plans and then governance issues are all themes that are addressed within the enabling conditions.”

He noted the arrow on the right hand side that points up for implementation.  “The plan really stops going through those enabling conditions and talking about what would be necessary to make progress on those fronts, and then it hands off to a series of programs within the Department: the emergency response, the operations and maintenance, the flood plain management, the flood projects, and then of course, planning.”

In the course of the update, in addition to having the same primary and secondary goals, they wanted to link those goals to these four broader societal outcomes, or intended outcomes, he said.  “The plan is just a plan, it’s not a commitment, it’s programmatic at level; the intent is to really find out what is the needed investment,” he said.  “Are we talking $20 billion, $10 billion, $40 billion? And then what are the policy changes that we would recommend be changed so we can make effective implementation of those actions to actually get these outcomes.”

At the highest level, we have public safety outcomes and economic stability outcomes; those have traditionally been what we focused on in the flood management community,” he said.  “But we also have ecosystem vitality outcomes, and then a category that the California Water Plan team is called ‘enriching experiences.’  Leslie referred to these as recreational benefits, but they also represent the other societal benefits that the federal government often invests in.

Within the 2017 update, there are 14 flood specific outcomes which map back to the four societal goals:

  • Public safety:  Minimize lives exposed to potential flooding, reduce human vulnerability to oncoming flood waters, and increase the system performance in populace areas.
  • Economic stability: Minimizing economic exposure to potential flooding, reducing the economic vulnerability damages once the flooding occurs, increasing system performance for economically developed areas, and producing or maintaining economic benefits on flood plains.
  • Ecosystem vitality: To generally promote ecosystem function, to increase the quantity of functional floodplain and associated riverine habitats, and then to increase and maintain the abundance and diversity of floodplain dependent species.
  • Enriching experiences: To provide recreational benefits; support societal and aesthetic values, education and public awareness, and to protect significant farmland, the last an important consideration for the largely rural and predominantly agricultural nature of the Central Valley.

Mr. Mierzwa noted that with respect to the conservation strategy, that each of these actions has ways to actually measure a high-level metric that we can report on in the 2022 update of the Plan; they will use the actual difference what they intended to achieve versus relative to what was actually achieved in 2022 to help formulate recommendations for the next iteration of the Plan.  “This will allow us to better prioritize the near term investments within the context of our system, as well as to actually inform the changes we need to make to our enabling conditions,” he said.

There are four things that I always remind my team are important to actually have effective implementation,” said Mr. Mierzwa.  “And that is for a plan to provide and set context and objectives; for a plan to go through and describe the performance of several ideas, call them alternatives; then the plan also needs to go through and describe a path for implementation for the recommendations. “This is embodied by the enabling conditions and the discussion of what changes we would recommend be made in the future to allow us to have a better ability to achieve those intended outcomes over time.”

The Central Valley Flood Protection Plan is strategic in nature and it’s a system investment plan, he said.  “While it does take into consideration staff needs in the future to actually implement these actions, it doesn’t go to the details down to a person, year, or individual; it doesn’t go through and make discrete funding decisions between programs but instead talks to the five megaprograms.  And while there are some policy recommendations really around the governance area that will show up in the plan, it’s just recommendations.”

While there’s been a lot of attention and concern that the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan and the basin-wide feasibility studies in particular actually represent project investments, they are just plans and general blueprints and guidelines that we’d like to invest in,” he said.  “It’s actually the role of the individual programs to come up with more specific plans of the features, so while there is project level information within the Plan, all of the programs have the ability and the imperative to go through and refine that, based off of further discussions.”

Mr. Mierzwa concluded by noting that while the 2017 update is an update to the 2012 Central Valley Flood Protection Plan, it will also talk about the importance of establishing and linking the Plan into broader efforts, such as the Governor’s Water Action Plan; there will be maps that show both the outcomes as well as types of actions they hope to invest in.

The important point to be made is that the plan recognizes that over the 30 years that we hope to implement the recommendations of this particular update, the actions that we choose may be slightly different, but the intent is to get the outcomes, and so when the programs go into implementation mode, if they can find a better, particular project idea, we welcome that to happen at any time,” he said.  “That’s a piece of flexibility that we think is imperative and necessary for a successful long-term system plan to succeed.”

The Plan also takes the recommendations on the enabling conditions and talks about some of the resources the state would like to dedicate to actually making progress on those.  “That is coming from my recognition that for decades we’ve had a number of good policy level reports for flood management actions in the state of California, but we’ve never tended to build the right team around there to actually make progress on those recommendations, so that is one of the foundational parts that will be included within this update.”

So with that …

NANCY MORICZ, Central Valley Flood Protection Board

Nancy Moricz then gave a brief summary of the formal public review and adoption timeline.

DSC MoriczThe public draft of the plan will be released and presented at the Board meeting on December 16, where DWR will present what has changed from the 2012 adopted plan to the 2017 update.  They will be holding public meetings across the Valley in January of 2017.

The Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Impact Report certification is anticipated in May of 2017, and the anticipated adoption of the 2017 update findings is expected at the June 2017 Central Valley Flood Protection Board meeting.

That’s a brief overview of the timeline that we’re anticipating but there will be of course lots of opportunity for public input between now and the hopefully the plan update adoption in 2017, so we are already coordinating internally between both DWR and Board staff to make sure we are ready for the release in December of the public draft,” she said.

And with that …

For more information …

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