Billions of dollars in flood projects have eased fears of levee breaks near California’s capital and some other cities, but state and federal workers are joining farmers with tractors in round-the-clock battles this week to stave off any chain-reaction failure of rural levees protecting farms and farm towns.
The crisis at Oroville brought dams to the forefront of state and national discussions about aging infrastructure. Now, as full dams release high flows into rivers hemmed in by levees, this element of the state’s flood management system is in the spotlight. Many of our levees are very old—much older than most of the state’s dams—and in need of modernization. Nowhere in California is the issue more important—or more challenging—than in the Central Valley, and particularly, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
A local emergency has been declared by Fresno County officials because of a weakened levee operated by Tranquillity Irrigation District and the continued high flows into local waterways from reservoir releases.
As the latest major storm to saturate California got in its final licks Tuesday, the state deployed all the weapons in its flood-control arsenal — including farm tractors, pontoon boats and controlled releases from mountain reservoirs.
The early settlers snatched up the rich, loamy land along the Feather River to grow grapes and orchards. Edward Mathews, an Irishman who fled the potato famine, was peddling vegetables and didn’t have the cash for that kind of soil.
While crews kept up emergency levee repairs on Tyler Island on Tuesday, the San Joaquin River woke up and stretched her arms, finally reaching flood stage after languishing for several years as a weed-choked, drought-diminished trickle.
If 200-year flood protection isn’t secured — or at least a financial and implementation plan in place by July 1, 2016 — development of the Great Wolf Resort and family entertainment zone, The Trails at Manteca, and other residential projects in southwest Manteca won’t take place.
“A major roadblock to completion of critical levee repairs in Sacramento’s Natomas basin was cleared Tuesday when President Barack Obama signed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act into law.”
“In Congress, seniority still matters. Although lawmakers can no longer earmark funds for home-state projects, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) has written into a massive water bill a measure that promises to bring more money to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.”
“The House passed the closest thing so far this year to an infrastructure bill – a $12 billion-plus bipartisan measure authorizing 34 water projects, ranging from flood protection in California and North Dakota to deepening the Port of Savannah and widening a Texas-Louisiana waterway that services the oil industry.”