Devastating floods are almost annual occurrences in the West and in California. With the anticipated sea level rise and other impacts of a changing climate, particularly heavy winter rains, flood management is increasingly critical in California. Compounding the issue are man-made flood hazards such as levee stability and stormwater runoff.
With four straight days of rain, the Los Angeles River has come alive. Thanks to Measure W, which was passed by voters last November, projects will be funded and infrastructure will be built to capture, treat and recycle all this rain water. Measure W is predicted to raise $300 million per year for L.A. County off a new property tax for what is called impermeable areas. That would be the driveway of your house, concrete patio or anything that stops water from going into the ground.
Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman today named Ernest A. Conant director of the Mid-Pacific Region. Conant has nearly 40 years of water law experience and previously served as senior partner of Young Wooldridge, LLP.
Heavy rains this week left Lake Mendocino, the North Bay region’s second-largest reservoir, with an extra 2 billion gallons of water that until now officials would have been obliged to release into the Russian River and eventually the Pacific Ocean. Thanks to a $10 million program that blends high-tech weather forecasting with novel computer programming, the Army Corps has the latitude to retain an additional 11,650 acre feet of water, and Lake Mendocino has now impounded a little more than half that much.
Southern California Edison — fighting dozens of legal claims related to the Montecito mudslides that followed the Thomas fire — is putting the blame on Santa Barbara County and Caltrans for failing to prepare for deadly debris flows they knew were inevitable.
Because of the potential of massive flooding, the Army Corps of Engineers is rushing to begin a $500-million repair project for Whittier Narrows Dam, classified as the highest priority of any of the 13 “high risk” dams in the country. Nearly three years ago, the Army Corps of Engineers elevated the risk of failure from “high urgency” to “very high urgency” after a re-inspection revealed a greater threat of erosion and breach that would cause massive downstream flooding to one million Southern California residents in the event of a severe storm event.
Locally, the primary impacts of climate change on people can broadly be broken into four categories: sea level rise, drought, flood and wildfire. The good news is, work and planning are already well underway to mitigate impacts, though it’s hard to say how much of an effect the measures will have, and how much those agencies – and their constituents – will be willing to spend on them. But this much is clear: Local, state and federal agencies are taking climate change seriously, and treating it like the potentially existential threat that it is.
At least one state agency has indicated it will not issue necessary permits to allow federal officials and a Fresno-based water district to begin construction to raise the height of Shasta Dam. In addition to facing opposition from the state, the project could also face fresh hurdles from Congress, which this year came under control of Democrats. In a letter to the Fresno-based Westlands Water District, the State Water Resources Control Board says raising the height of Shasta Dam would violate state law.
Around the world, vanishing glaciers will mean less water for people and crops in the future. … Glaciers represent the snows of centuries, compressed over time into slowly flowing rivers of ice. … But in a warming climate melting outstrips accumulation, resulting in a net loss of ice.
The whims of political fate decided in 2018 that state bond money would not be forthcoming to help repair the subsidence-damaged parts of Friant-Kern Canal, the 152-mile conduit that conveys water from the San Joaquin River to farms that fuel a multibillion-dollar agricultural economy along the east side of the fertile San Joaquin Valley.
A simple web search will pull up nearly a million articles, videos and photos featuring Frank Gehrke. He’s no fashion icon like Kim Kardashian or a dogged politician like Gov. Jerry Brown. But he has broken a lot of news. … For 30 years, you might have seen Gehrke on TV, the guy trudging through snow with a measuring pole, talking about how deep the pack is each winter on the evening news. He retired from his post as the state’s chief snow surveyor in December, but he’s not letting go of his snowshoes and skis anytime soon.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today released the Delta Conservation Framework as a comprehensive resource and guide for conservation planning in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta through 2050. The framework provides a template for regional and stakeholder-led approaches to restoring ecosystem functions to the Delta landscape.
Most of the native habitat in California’s San Joaquin Desert has been converted to row crops and orchards, leaving 35 threatened or endangered species confined to isolated patches of habitat. A significant portion of that farmland, however, is likely to be retired in the coming decades due to groundwater overdraft, soil salinity, and climate change. A new study … found that restoration of fallowed farmland could play a crucial role in habitat protection and restoration strategies for the blunt-nosed leopard lizard and other endangered species.
The confluence of California’s two great rivers, the Sacramento and the San Joaquin, creates the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas. Those of us who live here call it, simply, the Delta. It is part of my very fiber, and it is essential to California’s future. That’s why we must save it.
Arcadis has announced it will partner with Kiewit Infrastructure West and PERC Water to serve as the progressive design-build team for the Sustainable Water Infrastructure Project (SWIP) in the City of Santa Monica, Calif. Currently, the city partially relies on imported water to meet its water needs. This project will allow the city to take a major step toward water independence, supporting existing programs designed to create a sustainable water supply
Rising sea levels are not only going to increasingly flood parts of Long Beach, but could leave the most vulnerable neighborhoods uninhabitable within a generation or two, according to a city presentation Monday night that drew more 300 residents concerned about the city’s — and their own — future.
The McCormack-Williamson Tract restoration project, a 1,500 acre site, lowers the levees on the north side of the island to allow the river to overtop into the site. On the south side, DWR will alleviate the surge flows that pose a risk to neighbors by opening small holes in the levee. 2018 saw the completion of construction of a levee to protect existing infrastructure on the site, as well as progress on habitat restoration plans. For the next phase, DWR will strengthen the interior levees and take steps toward opening the site up to tidal flows.
The work to provide Yuba-Sutter with the highest level of flood protection possible isn’t yet complete, but the levees are much better today, having had the oversight expertise of the head of the Sutter Butte Flood Control Agency. After more than seven years with the agency, SBFCA Executive Director Mike Inamine announced he would be leaving this week for a job with the California Department of Water Resources.
The century-old PG&E—which employs 20,000 workers and is slated to play an integral role in California’s clean energy future—also has a checkered history and little goodwill to spare with the public. On Thursday, the PUC launched an investigation into the utility’s safety record and corporate structure, as Bay Area residents shouted, protested and urged commissioners not to give them a bailout.
Southern California’s native scrublands are famously tough. … They evolved along with long, hot summers, at least six rainless months a year and intense wildfires. But not this much fire, this often. The combination of too-frequent wildfires and drought amplified by climate change poses a growing threat to wildlands that deliver drinking water to millions.
Registration is now open for the Santa Ana River Watershed Conference set for March 29 in Fullerton. The daylong event will be held at Cal State Fullerton. Join us to discuss the importance of the Santa Ana River Watershed and how, through powerful partnerships, resilient solutions can be found to improve the quality and reliability of the region’s water supply.
Officials have given President Trump a plan to divert funds designated for Army Corps of Engineers projects in California and Puerto Rico to help pay for a wall along the southern border, a leading member of Congress said Thursday. … The projects include raising the height of Folsom Dam on the American River in Northern California, protecting Lake Isabella in Kern County from leaking as a result of earthquakes, enlarging the Tule River and Lake Success in the Central Valley and building shoreline protections in South San Francisco.
Last week, the relicensing effort reached a milestone when FERC issued its Final Environmental Impact Statement. The environmental document essentially looks at what changes a licensee has proposed for a specific project, the impacts of those changes and provides conditions they must meet if awarded a new license.
One of the Water Education Foundation’s most popular events, Water 101 offers a once-a-year opportunity for anyone new to California water issues or newly elected to a water district board – and anyone who wants a refresher — to gain a deeper understanding of the state’s most precious natural resource. It will be held Feb. 7 at McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento.
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is seeking to auction off its Potter Valley Project hydropower plant, which contains two reservoirs and dams, to a new operator. PG&E cited increasing operation costs, a competitive energy market and lower energy generation needs as reasons for its decision. Questions remain as to what extent Marin County water supplies will be affected by a potential change in ownership and operation of the 110-year-old hydropower plant more than 100 miles to the north.
A storm will slide into Southern California with soaking rain by the weekend, putting burn-scar areas at a renewed risk for life-threatening flooding and mudslides. People living near or downhill of the Creek, La Tuna, Thomas, Woolsey and Whittier burn areas should make sure they stay up to date on the latest forecast and heed all evacuation issues that are ordered by local officials.
Featuring artists, photographers, first-person narratives, historical and scientific essays, long-form journalism and fiction, the magazine revolves around the fascinating people and wonders that make up the greater Bay – Delta region of California.
Crescent City Harbormaster Charlie Helms said he and commissioners are worried about sediment being deposited in the marina and the potential impact it could have on the commercial fleet. A new environmental document predicts the level of sediment released as a result of dam removal will be similar to what the river carries downstream during an average year.
At the confluence of the San Joaquin and Tuolumne rivers, a few miles west of Modesto, work crews removed or broke several miles of levee last spring and replanted the land with tens of thousands of native sapling trees and shrubs. It’s part of a growing emphasis on reconnecting floodplains to rivers so they can absorb floodwaters. This shift in methodology marks a U-turn from past reliance on levees to protect cities and towns.
In February, following a string of severe natural disasters in 2017, Congress provided a record $16 billion for disaster mitigation — building better defenses against hurricanes, floods and other catastrophes. Eleven months later, the Trump administration has yet to issue rules telling states how to apply for the money.
In the latter half of 2018, both the federal and state governments released new climate change assessments that outline the projected course of climate change and its potential effects on water resources. At the December meeting of the California Water Commission, staff from the Department of Water Resources and the Delta Stewardship Council were on hand to present an overview of the newly released assessments.
There’s every reason to expect that 2019 will be far better, largely because of Measure W, which was passed by voters in November. The initiative imposes a Los Angeles County parcel tax that will generate $300 million per year to reduce pollution from runoff and capture storm water to add to the water supply.
A new study out of Stanford University finds that 10 percent of the total carbon dioxide spewed from California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho for power generation this century is the result of states turning to fossil fuels when water was too sparse to spin electrical turbines at dams.
During severe winter storms, Cold Springs Creek above Montecito turns into a torrent of mud, uprooted trees and shed-size boulders as it drains three square miles of sheer mountain front. The only thing protecting the people, homes and businesses below is a low dam that the Army Corps of Engineers built in 1964 at the mouth of the creek’s canyon, forming a basin between the steep banks to catch the crashing debris.
A crew was out this week spreading grass seed and straw on hillsides in west Redding to prevent erosion where the Carr Fire burned last summer. So far the California Conservation Corps crew has finished spreading erosion control on about 20 acres out of a planned 1,640 acres where work is planned.
Dam inspectors overlooked technical details during safety evaluations that could have identified structural problems with the Oroville Dam spillway before it broke during heavy rains in February 2017, according to an assessment ordered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. FERC assembled an independent, six-person panel to assess the safety inspections that are required every five years for the roughly 2,500 hydropower facilities that FERC regulates.
The storm that pelted Southern California on Thursday flooded roadways, triggered mud and debris flows in the burn areas of Malibu and dumped several inches of snow on mountain passes, shutting down the 5 Freeway through the Grapevine for much of the day. … Since the start of the water year on Oct. 1, downtown Los Angeles has received more than 4 inches of rain — more than the average amount of precipitation for this time of year and significantly more than last year, when about 1/10 of an inch of rain fell.
At the confluence of the San Joaquin and Tuolumne rivers, a winter of heavy rains could inundate about 1,200 acres of riverside woodland for the first time in 60 years. That’s by design: Here, a few miles west of Modesto, work crews removed or broke several miles of levee last spring and replanted the land with tens of thousands of native sapling trees and shrubs.
Not long after the Gold Rush of 1849, California became a state and made its capital in Sacramento. It seemed a logical choice. The city was served by the two of the state’s biggest rivers, the Sacramento and American, at a time when a lot of goods and people moved via river traffic. It was somewhat centrally located. But, there was the occasional flood. Every spring, the snowcap in the Sierras melts, leaving a significant amount of water in the Central Valley, where Sacramento sits. The city engineered a levee system to control the seasonal flooding.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will begin advertising for bids on a Feather River West Levee construction project estimated at $77 million. According to a staff report published earlier this year by the Central Valley Flood Protection Board, the project would make improvements to approximately 4.9 miles of levee.
A cold front that brought wind and heavy rain to California on Thursday unleashed debris flows in fire-ravaged neighborhoods, triggering evacuations and school closures as crews up and down the state rescued people trapped in homes and cars and, in one case, a man clinging to a tree in the Los Angeles River.
A storm moving into California on Thursday brought rain that threatened to unleash debris flows in wildfire burn areas and snow that could cause travel problems in the Sierra Nevada. A watershed emergency response team worked in the area of Paradise to identify spots that could be prone to flash floods and mudslides.
California will see widespread rain and heavy Sierra Nevada snowfall through midweek, potentially bringing travel problems and raising the risk of damaging runoff from wildfire burn scars, forecasters said Tuesday.
The financially imperiled federal flood insurance program is days away from expiring, but the insurance industry and other advocates said they hold out little hope that Congress will solve the program’s problems anytime soon.
First came fire. Now the floods? With late-season wildfires increasingly common in California, the twinning of the two catastrophes is becoming an alarmingly regular fear. Officials in both Northern and Southern California are planning this week for the possibility of a second set of disasters while still battling the flames of the first.
Marysville is one step closer to being the most protected city in the Central Valley from flooding, experts say, with the recent completion of a stretch of slurry wall in part of the ring levee project. Last week, crews completed a portion of the Marysville Ring Levee project – Phase 2A North – located between the 10th Street and Fifth Street bridges.
Federal regulators are raising new concerns about the troubled Oroville Dam, telling California officials their recently rebuilt flood-control spillways likely couldn’t handle a mega-flood. Although the chances of such a disastrous storm are considered extremely unlikely — the magnitude of flooding in the federal warning is far greater than anything ever experienced — national dam safety experts say the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s concerns could have costly repercussions for California.
State officials said Wednesday the damaged Oroville Dam flood-control spillway is ready for the rainy season, and will be able to fully blast water down its half-mile long concrete chute for the first time in nearly two years if lake levels rise. Work on the adjacent emergency spillway is ongoing.
Two-hundred members of the California Conservation Corps from as far away as San Diego and Fortuna descended on a Delta levee bordering southwest Stockton’s Van Buskirk Park on Tuesday to practice their flood control skills. … CCC Communications Director Dana Howard, also on hand to observe Tuesday’s training exercise, took the opportunity to announce the recent opening of the Corps’ first newly constructed facility in Northern California in decades.
Just because El Niño may be lurking off in the tropical Pacific, does that really offer much of a clue about what kind of rainy season California can expect in Water Year 2019?
Will a river of storms pound the state, swelling streams and packing the mountains with deep layers of heavy snow much like the exceptionally wet 2017 Water Year (Oct. 1, 2016 to Sept. 30, 2017)? Or will this winter sputter along like last winter, leaving California with a second dry year and the possibility of another potential drought? What can reliably be said about the prospects for Water Year 2019?
At Water Year 2019: Feast or Famine?, a one-day event on Dec. 5 in Irvine, water managers and anyone else interested in this topic will learn about what is and isn’t known about forecasting California’s winter precipitation weeks to months ahead, the skill of present forecasts and ongoing research to develop predictive ability.
In recent decades, San Franciscans have embraced the reborn Embarcadero waterfront as kind of front yard, and at noon on a weekday it crowds with tourists, skateboarders, entrepreneurs and other locals. But underneath wheels and feet, three and a half miles of seawall is cracking and crumbling, vulnerable to rising waters or a major earthquake.
Scientists are becoming more adept at linking climate change to worsening storms, even in real time, but federal officials aren’t using that information to help prepare for natural disasters. The study of how global warming makes extreme weather more intense or more frequent—called attribution science—has evolved rapidly.
Federal, state and local officials issued the warning Wednesday at a press conference in Santa Barbara, adjacent to Montecito where a January debris flow from the Thomas Fire burn scar devastated homes, killed 21 people and left two missing.
Less than a year after a roaring mudslide left 23 people dead or missing in Montecito, state and federal officials will gather in Santa Barbara County on Wednesday to issue a warning to all Californians: Massive summer wildfires have left many communities facing an increased risk of flooding. The announcement, part of California Flood Preparedness Week, comes as the state’s wet season is quickly approaching.
When it comes to flood fighting, the men and women who’ve worked for Levee District 1 have seen it all – from tragedy to triumph. Those still around have plenty of stories to tell. The public will have an opportunity to hear some of those stories during the district’s 150th anniversary celebration on Oct. 26. The district is responsible for operations and maintenance of 16.15 miles of levee spanning from Pease Road to Marcuse Road in Sutter County.
State officials said today [Oct. 18] they are “racing” to implement erosion control measures before the start of the rainy season on hills left bare by the Carr Fire. … [Clint] Snyder [assistant executive officer, Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board] said the erosion control is focused on protecting human life and property, preserving drinking water sources in the Sacramento River and wildlife.
About 130 private property owners around Lake Shasta could be forced to move if a plan to raise the height of Shasta Dam goes forward. That was just one of the pieces of information that came out of a community meeting about the project Monday night in Lakehead. … About 90 people attended the meeting to hear from U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials about how Lakehead residents and business owners will be affected if the height of the dam is raised 18½ feet.
Explore the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape as we learn about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.
All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour participants will get an on-site update of Oroville Dam spillway repairs.
A state of emergency was declared for the bayfront community of Belvedere after investigation of a damaged seawall revealed the problem is larger than the city had realized. Consulting engineers told the city late last month it should act immediately to prevent the seawall along Beach Road — which protects the area from flooding — from shifting any further or collapsing into San Francisco Bay.
Whether fire or earthquake, mudslide or drought, natural disaster is an inextricable part of the California experience. And just as it upended Francis’s life, disaster threatens to snarl the next governor’s plans. Emergency response is rarely discussed as a campaign issue, but once in office, a governor’s on-the-ground handling of unexpected catastrophe and its immediate aftermath can define his legacy, for good or bad.
The state Department of Water Resources still expects to meet its quickly approaching Nov. 1 deadline to have all concrete placed on the Oroville Dam’s main spillway. Crews began by placing permanent concrete slabs at the bottom of the spillway of the nation’s tallest dam, making their way to the top. Now, the upper chute is about three-quarters of the way complete, DWR reported in a moderated media call on Wednesday.
The Colorado River Basin is more than likely headed to unprecedented shortage in 2020 that could force supply cuts to some states, but work is “furiously” underway to reduce the risk and avert a crisis, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman told an audience of California water industry people.
During a keynote address at the Water Education Foundation’s Sept. 20 Water Summit in Sacramento, Burman said there is opportunity for Colorado River Basin states to control their destiny, but acknowledged that in water, there are no guarantees that agreement can be reached.
Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law Sen. Jim Nielsen’s bill to form a citizens advisory commission for the Oroville Dam. Senate Bill 955 creates a 19-member commission to provide a forum for residents and state officials to discuss reports, maintenance and other ongoing issues related to the dam.
Fixing the Oroville Dam spillway wrecked by storms in 2017 will cost $1.1 billion — a $455-million hike from initial estimates — the state Department of Water Resources announced Wednesday. The swelling cost can be blamed on design changes that have been made over the last 16 months and damage to the facility near Oroville, Calif., that was far more extensive than initially presumed, the department said.
As communities grapple with record breaking rainfall and flooding there have been a slew of new technologies, known as ‘disaster apps,’ to help alert people and keep them safe. Now, Austin, Texas, is developing its own system, one it hopes will expand to other places. The city is in a part of Texas already known as Flash Flood Alley.
Butte County has filed another lawsuit against the state Department of Water Resources, this time for damages from the Oroville Dam crisis that continue to increase. The county is seeking compensation for damage to its roads, which heavy equipment is still utilizing for construction efforts, and also for costs associated with responding to the spillway emergency in February 2017.
A 30-foot-wide section of temporary wall on the upper chute of the Oroville Dam spillway fell over late last week, the state Department of Water Resources confirmed on Monday. The collapse did not impact construction deadlines and resulted in no injuries, according to the department.
Farmers in the Central Valley are broiling about California’s plan to increase flows in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river systems to help struggling salmon runs avoid extinction. But in one corner of the fertile breadbasket, River Garden Farms is taking part in some extraordinary efforts to provide the embattled fish with refuge from predators and enough food to eat.
And while there is no direct benefit to one farm’s voluntary actions, the belief is what’s good for the fish is good for the farmers.
The local oversight committee spearheaded by Assemblyman James Gallagher and Sen. Jim Nielsen had some suggestions this week for the state Department of Water Resources on its assessment of the Oroville Dam. This comes about a month after the committee met for the first time on July 18.
Eighteen months after the dramatic failure of the spillways at Oroville Dam in Northern California, a disaster that led to the evacuation of 188,000 people, construction is on schedule to complete the concrete work in the main spillway by Nov. 1. … On Monday, Lake Oroville was 51 percent full, or 73 percent of its historic average for this date.
Crews have begun to place the final layer of concrete this week on the upper portion of the Oroville Dam spillway chute. This marks a “crucial milestone,” said Tony Meyers, project manager for the recovery project for the state Department of Water Resources, in a moderated media call on Wednesday.
When rivers flood now in the United States, the first towns to get hit are the unprotected ones right by the river. The last to go, if they flood at all, are the privileged few behind strong levees. While levees mostly are associated with large, low-lying cities such as New Orleans, a majority of the nation’s Corps-managed levees protect much smaller communities, rural farm towns and suburbs such as Valley Park [Missouri].
The independent review board hired by the state Department of Water Resources to put outside eyes on an assessment which will play a large role in the future operations of the Oroville Dam has released its first report. Suggestions for infrastructure changes like the construction of a second gated spillway are expected to be considered through what DWR is calling a comprehensive needs assessment.
Fran Obrigewitsch pulled up the most recent photo on her iPhone of the Oroville Dam spillway, taken just two days before it started to collapse last year. Her first chance to catch another glimpse was Monday, as the state Department of Water Resources reopened the stretch of Oro Dam Boulevard East that offers views of the spillway to the general public for the first time since the crisis began.
A historic first meeting between state Department of Water Resources officials and local leaders as a committee solidified that the community will have a say in the future of Oroville Dam operations. … The committee is being led by co-chairs Assemblyman James Gallagher, Sen. Jim Nielsen and DWR’s John Yarbrough.
Phase two of construction on the Oroville Dam’s main and emergency spillways is speeding along, as the Oroville Mercury-Register got to see up close in a tour on Wednesday guided by state Department of Water Resources officials. With half of the main spillway currently a work in progress, the department’s goal is to have the structure ready to use, if needed, by Nov. 1 — just under four months away.
For years, there has been a movement in California to restore floodplains, by moving levees back from rivers and planting trees, shrubs and grasses in the low-lying land between. The goal has been to go back in time, to bring back some of the habitat for birds, animals and fish that existed before the state was developed.
Concrete pouring is due to start Monday on the second half of the Oroville Dam emergency spillway “splash pad.” That’s the only milestone reported Wednesday during a media call on progress to repair the emergency spillway and main spillway, which sustained serious damage in February 2017.
Among California rivers, the Yuba is one of the most dramatic. Draining the Sierra Nevada just north of Lake Tahoe, it is steep and flashy – one of the most flood-prone rivers in the state. Yuba River floods have killed people – notably in 1955, 1986 and 1997 – and climate change is making such floods more likely.
The Army Corps of Engineers will spend $74 million to enlarge Success Lake east of Porterville, doubling flood protection for the city and boosting the water supply for farmers. It’s not the only Army Corps project in the majority leader’s district that got major funding. Lake Isabella in Kern County is getting $258 million for a dam safety modification project.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Rep. Doris Matsui’s office announced that the [Sacramento] region has been allocated nearly $1.8 billion to strengthen levees and raise Folsom Dam. … In total, the Army Corps allocated $17 billion for flood projects around the country Thursday, as part of a congressional appropriation in February.
The Diversion Pool below Oroville Dam and the trails on both sides of it will be partially open Friday through the Fourth of July, the Department of Water Resources announced Wednesday. The report came during a conference call to update media on the status of work to repair the spillways, which were heavily damaged in February 2017.
The Senate on Monday approved a $145 billion spending bill to fund the Energy Department and veterans’ programs for the next budget year. … The bill includes $43.8 billion for energy and water programs, including programs to ensure nuclear stockpile readiness and spur innovation in energy research. The bill also funds flood-control projects and addresses regional ports and waterways.
The Army Corps of Engineers announced Monday that the additional money would be available to the Hamilton City Flood Damage Reduction and Ecosystem Restoration Project in the current fiscal year. … It is the first in the nation being constructed under the Corps’ guidelines to develop projects that include both flood risk reduction and ecosystem restoration.
An excavator slid down the Oroville Dam spillway slope on Sunday morning, resulting in minor injuries to its operator, the state Department of Water Resources confirmed on Wednesday. Erin Mellon, assistant director of public affairs for DWR, said that the operator immediately got back to work after the accident, which is currently under investigation by the department and Kiewit Infrastructure West Co., the lead contractor for the construction project.
Two bills proposed by Assemblyman James Gallagher, one of which would have taken the State Water Project from the state Department of Water Resources and another which would have provided funding for school resource officers, failed on Friday to pass through the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
The second and final phase of reconstruction continues at the Oroville Dam spillways. … A flight over the location last week during a break in Butte County Sheriff’s Office helicopter training exercise, showed that much original concrete at the top of the chute has been removed, along with the walls.
While work to repair the main Oroville Dam spillway will largely be done by Nov. 1, in response to a question, the Department of Water Resources clarified that work on the emergency spillway will continue into 2019.
Construction work began just after midnight Tuesday morning on phase 2 of the repairs to the Oroville Dam main spillway. The Department of Water Resources had been granted permission by federal and state regulators to start work May 8, and contractor Kiewit Infrastructure West didn’t waste any time.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency recently told north state congressmen Doug LaMalfa and John Garamendi that the agency is still reviewing whether the state Department of Water Resources is eligible for further reimbursement to fix the Oroville Dam spillway.
Since the 1940s, the Hawaiian island of Kauai has endured two tsunamis and two hurricanes, but locals say they have never experienced anything like the thunderstorm that drenched the island this month. “The rain gauge in Hanalei broke at 28 inches within 24 hours,” said state Rep. Nadine Nakamura of the North Shore community.
The extreme weather swings experienced by Californians the past six years — a historic drought followed by drenching winter storms that caused $100 million in damage to San Jose and wrecked the spillway at Oroville Dam — will become the norm over coming generations, a new study has found.
While some construction continues at Oroville Dam, the bulk of work under phase two is expected to begin May 8, state Department of Water Resources officials said Wednesday in a monthly media update call. This comes as DWR submitted an updated 2017-2018 Lake Oroville operations plan on Tuesday to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the California Division of Safety of Dams for approval.
We explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.
Hampton Inn Tropicana
4975 Dean Martin Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89118
After a spring storm system dumped 5 to 7 inches of rain into the Feather River basin over the weekend, state officials said Sunday they likely won’t have to use the partly rebuilt flood control spillway at Oroville Dam after all.
Northern California is bracing for a major spring storm that is expected to dump several inches of rain on burn-scarred areas of wine country and could present the first test of the partially repaired spillway at the nation’s tallest dam.
California voters may experience a sense of déjà vu this year when they are asked twice in the same year to consider water bonds — one in June, the other headed to the November ballot.
Both tackle a variety of water issues, from helping disadvantaged communities get clean drinking water to making flood management improvements. But they avoid more controversial proposals, such as new surface storage, and they propose to do some very different things to appeal to different constituencies.
Flash floods, rising rivers and mudslides are possible across Northern California as a storm that’s more January than April barrels in from the Pacific, the National Weather Service warns. “This is not the time of year when we see these big precipitation events,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA.
It’s a recipe for flooding. A tropical storm pulling moisture from the South Pacific, often called an atmospheric river, will deliver mild temperatures and heavy rain to the snow-covered northern Sierra Nevada later this week.
Oroville Dam operators said Tuesday they may have to release water over a partially rebuilt spillway for the first time since repairs began on the badly damaged structure last summer. Department of Water Resources officials said anticipated storms could trigger releases this week or next.
With a pounding storm headed for California, state water officials said Tuesday that Oroville Dam’s crumbled spillway could get its first test since being rebuilt in the wake of last year’s near-catastrophe.
Nearly a year after record Midwestern floods killed at least five people and caused $1.7 billion in damage, a secretive lobbying effort funded by Illinois and Missouri drainage districts is underway to roll back flood regulations, documents show.
California’s drought-to-deluge cycle can mask the dangers Mother Nature can have in store. During one of the driest March-through-February time periods ever recorded in Southern California, an intense storm dumped so much rain on Montecito in January that mudflows slammed into entire rows of homes.
The flows have been shut off through the Hyatt Powerhouse at the base of Oroville Dam, and the lake is beginning to rise. And that’s all by design, according to the state Department of Water Resources.
Heavy rain in the Sierra foothills pushed a small dam within San Francisco’s Hetch Hetchy water system to the brink of failure Thursday, sending a brief scare through the rural region where roads were closed and a few dozen residents were forced to evacuate.
Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. said on Wednesday that construction of the underground wall below the Oroville Dam emergency spillway completed in early March. The 1,450 feet long wall, drilled 35-65 feet into bedrock, is one preventative measure against the type of erosion that occurred there last year, should the emergency spillway ever be used again.
A bill introduced by Sen. Jim Nielsen that would create a citizens advisory commission for the Oroville Dam was amended in the Senate last week. This comes as the Oroville Dam Coalition has been lobbying over the past year for more community involvement, including through a citizens oversight committee, as a reaction to the spillway crisis in February 2017.
Peering out at sea, scientists last weekend saw a formidable sight: the spawning of a wet and wild storm the size of 30 Mississippi Rivers, headed towards California. The anticipation has officials all over the Golden State watching the skies and wondering: Will my town get a fraction of rain, or a bucketful?
The state Department of Water Resources submitted its plan to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Tuesday to address findings in the independent forensic report. The extensive forensic report, released on Jan. 5, blamed “long-term systematic failure,” including faulty design and insufficient maintenance, for the Oroville Dam crisis in February 2017.
Flood control officials are asking a judge to impose sanctions against an outspoken critic who they say has forced them to waste hundreds of thousands of dollars of public money on litigation the critic referred to as his “hobby.”
California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Monday that seeks to beef up dam inspections following a near disaster that caused the evacuation of almost 200,000 people living downstream from the tallest one in the United States. The measure implements several recommendations from experts who reviewed the crisis at Oroville Dam last year.
Though the final phase of repair work on the main spillway at Lake Oroville is now on the back burner until spring, Department of Water Resources officials said crews are making significant progress on repairing the emergency spillway.
Until February 2017, the calls that came to Butte 2-1-1 ranged from quelling stress, and finding support organizations, to locating low-cost diapers. But for a few weeks after the Oroville Dam spillway disaster, the calls were desperate, seeking evacuation routes, hunting for surviving relatives, and wondering when residents could return home.
Coastal wetlands such as Bolinas Lagoon in Marin County, the marshes along Morro Bay and the ecological preserve in Newport Beach can purify the air, cleanse urban runoff before it flows into the sea and reduce flooding by absorbing storm surges like a sponge. But there’s little room left for this ecosystem along the changing Pacific Coast, as the sea continues to rise and Californians continue to develop the shore.
Modifications were made to construction plans for an upcoming phase of the Marysville Ring Levee project. … The Marysville Levee Commission, the Central Valley Flood Protection Board and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are proposing changes to their original plans for an area located along the existing levee to the southwest of Marysville, between the Fifth Street Bridge and E Street Bridge.
Assemblyman James Gallagher rounded up a group of bipartisan legislators to visit Oroville on Thursday, where they met with community members and toured the now-infamous dam. Representatives of districts ranging from southern to northern California came to better understand the place where the evacuation of about 188,000 people occurred just over a year ago.
Still recovering from January’s deadly mudslides, Santa Barbara County authorities are monitoring a storm system that is expected to dump light rain beginning Monday over the barren hills charred by last year’s Thomas Fire.
One year after the worst structural failures at a major U.S. dam in a generation, federal regulators who oversee California’s half-century-old, towering Oroville Dam say they are looking hard at how they overlooked its built-in weaknesses for decades.
Every day, people flock to Daniel Swain’s social media platforms to find out the latest news and insight about California’s notoriously unpredictable weather. Swain, a climate scientist at the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA, famously coined the term “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge” in December 2013 to describe the large, formidable high-pressure mass that was parked over the West Coast during winter and diverted storms away from California, intensifying the drought.
Swain’s research focuses on atmospheric processes that cause droughts and floods, along with the changing character of extreme weather events in a warming world. A lifelong Californian and alumnus of University of California, Davis, and Stanford University, Swain is best known for the widely read Weather West blog, which provides unique perspectives on weather and climate in California and the western United States. In a recent interview with Western Water, he talked about the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge, its potential long-term impact on California weather, and what may lie ahead for the state’s water supply.
Butte County District Attorney Michael Ramsey has filed a lawsuit against the California Department of Water Resources seeking $34 billion to $51 billion in civil penalties for environmental damage following the failure of the Oroville Dam spillways last February.
Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey announced Wednesday that his office filed a lawsuit against the state Department of Water Resources for environmental damages to the Feather River as a result of the Oroville Dam crisis.
On Thursday, nearly a year since officials for the 10th largest city in the nation were caught off guard by a historic flood, [Sinia] Ellis joined more than 150 other households to announce a lawsuit against San Jose, Santa Clara County and the Santa Clara Valley Water District, which oversees flood protection for 1.8 million people.
Oroville Dam’s battered flood-control spillways have been largely rebuilt, but the cost of last February’s near-disaster keeps rising. On Friday, state officials put the total price tag at $870 million.
The Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are currently testing Folsom Dam’s auxiliary spillway, part of the official commissioning of the newly constructed structure. The Corps, in cooperation with Reclamation, are testing all of the major systems in the structure, ensuring that the facility operates as intended in the design. The tests, underway this week and next, include operating and releasing water from all six new auxiliary spillway radial gates.
This month’s tragic mudslides in Montecito, California are a reminder that natural hazards lurk on the doorsteps of many U.S. homes, even in affluent communities. Similar events occur every year around the world, often inflicting much higher casualties yet rarely making front-page headlines.
The disaster at Oroville Dam in California last winter put questions about dam safety in the headlines for the first time in many years. … The state of Utah went through its own disaster in 1989 that prompted big changes in the state’s dam safety program.
For days, crews have filled dozens of dump trucks with tangled metal, tire tread, mud and tree branches they cleared from the mudslide wreckage in Montecito. … A lawsuit filed on behalf of four Santa Barbara County residents accuses Southern California Edison and the Montecito Water District of negligence that contributed to the damage wrought by the Thomas fire and then the rains last week.
Signaling what could be a wave of lawsuits arising from last year’s spillway crisis, the city of Oroville is planning to file a complaint Wednesday against the state Department of Water Resources for damages it says it suffered during and after the emergency. About 188,000 people were evacuated from communities along the Feather River after the failure of Oroville Dam’s main spillway last Feb. 7.
After power and drinking water return, and cleanup crews haul away the last of the boulders and muck that splintered homes like a battering ram, the wealthy seaside hideaway of Montecito, California, will start rebuilding with the possibility of another catastrophic flood in mind.
Mudflows knocked out six sections of Montecito’s main water line that snakes along the hills above most homes. There, a pipeline once partly aboveground is now sometimes 50 feet in the air after the ravines beneath it washed out.
Scenic hill slopes can be inspiring – or deadly, as we are seeing after the disastrous debris flows that have ravaged the community of Montecito, California in the wake of heavy rains on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018. … As mountains rise, erosion tears them down. And Southern California’s mountains are rising fast, squeezed up by the action of the region’s active faults.
Santa Barbara County crews worked through the holidays to defend coastal communities from the second half of Southern California’s familiar cycle of fire and flood. They cleaned out the 11 debris basins that dot the Santa Barbara front country, making room for the dirt and ash and rocks that winter rains would inevitably send tumbling down mountain slopes laid bare by the massive Thomas Fire.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2018 budget continues efforts to combat climate change. A total of $9.8 billion is destined for the Natural Resources Agency for things like groundwater sustainability, flood management and additional funding for expanding the state’s firefighting capabilities.
Grant Davis, director of the California Water Resources Department, was replaced Wednesday just days after an independent investigation of the Oroville dam spillway incident last year found that a flawed safety culture contributed to the disaster. The agency said Gov. Jerry Brown replaced Davis with Karla Nemeth, who has been deputy secretary and senior advisor for water policy at the California Natural Resources Agency since 2014.
The Montecito mudslides takes a grim place as one of California’s deadliest flooding events in several years. … Officials said in the days leading up to the storm, a team of people, including meteorologists, Cal Fire, U.S. Forest Service, local firefighters and flood district personnel, worked to estimate where the mudslides would hit.
California water officials have always insisted public safety was their only concern as they struggled with the crisis unfolding last February at Oroville Dam. The forensic team investigating what happened at Lake Oroville, however, has pinpointed another factor guiding the decisions made by the Department of Water Resources: the state’s desire to continue shipping water to faraway farms and cities that rely on deliveries from the reservoir.
The spillway failures at Oroville Dam that prompted tens of thousands to flee for their lives last winter were the result of years of mistakes, lax inspections and lazy repairs by the state’s water agency, a team of independent dam experts reported Friday. Their conclusions: State water managers should not have built the dam’s primary spillway on faulty bedrock.
New York will be the first major metropolis to be remapped taking into account the realities of climate change, like rising sea levels and increasingly powerful storms. … As a result, FEMA and city officials say, New York could be an example for other places around the country.
Less than nine months after two massive holes formed in Lake Oroville’s main spillway, construction crews wrapped up their first phase of rebuilding it. Some local residents have expressed concerns that the quick turnover could result in faults or design flaws, but an official with the Department of Water Resources said if any crew can accomplish the feat, it would be Kiewit Infrastructure West Co.
The independent team of experts investigating the dramatic failure of the spillways last February at Oroville Dam that led to the evacuation of 188,000 people has concluded that California water officials were “overconfident and complacent” and gave “inadequate priority for dam safety,” according to a final report released Friday.
The forensic team investigating the February emergency at Oroville Dam blasted the California Department of Water Resources on Friday, saying the dam’s owner and operator did a poor job of designing, building and maintaining the structure and neglected safety while focusing on the “water delivery needs” of its customers to the south.
State Department of Water Resources officials recently met with Oroville Dam Coalition members to consider their ideas for the Oroville Wildlife Area project, but announced later the same day that the department had different plans.
Elected officials and other groups representing those living below the troubled Oroville Dam have asked the Trump administration to hold off on renewing its 50-year license, saying the federal government should at least know why the spillway broke in half last winter before signing off.
There were many takeaways from last February’s Lake Oroville spillway incident, but one very alarming one: a large number of Yuba-Sutter residents who evacuated said they experienced issues with leaving the area, mainly due to traffic congestion. And a startling number of residents reported that they stayed home instead of fleeing, risking their lives in the event the emergency spillway did collapse.
The near-disaster at Oroville Dam last February brought damage claims flooding into the state by the hundreds – shops and restaurants that lost business, farms that got overwhelmed by surges in water, cities and counties buried in evacuation expenses. Most claims argue that the state is responsible for the emergency because it ignored warning signs about the condition of the dam’s spillway.
The previously secret state Department of Water Resources memorandum explaining the hairline cracks in the Oroville Dam spillway is now public. The document provides more details on how Kiewit Infrastructure West Co., the contractor for spillway reconstruction, tried to reduce shrinkage, which leads to cracking in concrete.
Yuba-Sutter residents voiced concerns to the Department of Water Resources over a variety of issues Thursday night, including the hairline cracks that have appeared on the reconstructed spillway, a need for more transparency moving forward, and the significant amount of sediment buildup in the Feather River brought about by the Lake Oroville incident last February and plans – or lack thereof – to clear it out.
The Bee reviewed five years of inspection reports by the California Department of Water Resources for 93 dams that the state identified as potentially problematic in the wake of the Oroville Dam spillway failure. … Use the map to see if a dam near you is on the list.
When it comes to inspecting dams, California is second to none. A panel of national experts examined the state’s Division of Safety of Dams last year and declared it tops in the field, citing inspectors’ knack for flagging small problems before they turn serious. Getting dam owners to fix those flaws quickly is another matter.
Northern California residents living in the shadow of the nation’s tallest dam vented decades of frustration with state water managers Wednesday, telling officials they have no credibility when they say hairline cracks in a newly rebuilt spillway are nothing to worry about.
It might be another year or so until reconstruction of the main spillway at Lake Oroville is officially complete, but Department of Water Resources officials say the structure is ready for whatever this winter can throw at it, even if there are a few cracks here and there.
The Sutter Butte Flood Control Agency got to work on emergency levee repairs following last winter’s high waters and the Oroville Dam evacuation. Seepage, boils, sink holes and water erosion were signs of severe distress. The $28.5 million project, mostly funded by the state, is geared up to complete by Christmas.
Atmospheric rivers are relatively narrow bands of moisture that ferry precipitation across the Pacific Ocean to the West Coast.
They are commonly referred to as the “Pineapple Express” because of their origins in tropical regions. While atmospheric rivers are necessary to keep California’s water reservoirs full, some of them are dangerous because the extreme rainfall and wind can cause catastrophic flooding and damage. Their presence has been likened to the West Coast version of the hurricane hazard posed to the Southeastern United States.
Phase two of construction at Oroville Dam — with work on both spillways — might prove more challenging than the first feat, the contractor’s project director said in a media call Thursday. … DWR [California Department of Water Resources] will hold two community meetings next week.
Several small cracks have been discovered on the Oroville Dam’s newly rebuilt concrete spillway, prompting federal regulators to express concern about the $500 million construction project under way at the troubled facility. But state water officials said Tuesday that the series of millimeter-wide cracks on the surface of the main spillway pose no structural problems for the nation’s tallest dam.
Federal regulators have asked the officials who operate Oroville Dam — and who are in charge of the $500 million-plus effort to rebuild and reinforce the facility’s compromised spillways — to explain small cracks that have appeared in recently rebuilt sections of the dam’s massive concrete flood-control chute.
New Melones holds four times as much water as it did at this time last year. That’s good news if the state shifts back into a dry pattern. But if California gets hit with another string of atmospheric river storms this winter, there won’t be enough room to hold it all back.
Explore the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs is the focus of this tour.
Best Western McCarran Inn
4970 Paradise Road
Las Vegas, NV 89119
This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape as participants learned about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.
All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour participants got an on-site update of repair efforts on the Oroville Dam spillway.
Participants of this tour snaked along the San Joaquin River to learn firsthand about one of the nation’s largest and most expensive river restoration projects.
The San Joaquin River was the focus of one of the most contentious legal battles in California water history, ending in a 2006 settlement between the federal government, Friant Water Users Authority and a coalition of environmental groups.
Droughts and floods are both a part of life in California as 2017 has so clearly demonstrated: It took one of the wettest winters on record to pull the state from the depths of a five-year drought. The state has invested funds in bulking up drought and flood protection in the past, but recent events highlighted the necessity of rejuvenating those efforts.
In a state with such topsy-turvy weather as California, the ability of forecasters to peer into the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean and accurately predict the arrival of storms is a must to improve water supply reliability and flood management planning.
The problem, according to Jeanine Jones, interstate resources manager with the state Department of Water Resources, is that “we have been managing with 20th century technology with respect to our ability to do weather forecasting.”
Sen. Jim Nielsen, Assemblyman James Gallagher, and members of the Oroville Dam Coalition are seeking federal assistance on issues relating to the dam they say need to be resolved. They met with commissioners of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and representatives for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
State Sen. Jim Nielsen, Assemblyman James Gallagher and Oroville Dam Coalition members are heading to Washington, D.C., this week to address what they say are outstanding issues following the spillway crisis.
The rains that swept into Northern California this weekend from the Gulf of Alaska didn’t turn out to be as extensive as forecasters had expected. … Work crews continue to repair the main spillway and emergency spillways at Oroville Dam in Butte County, which were heavily damaged in February during the massive atmospheric river storms that ended California’s five-year drought.
The Oroville Dam flood control spillway has been fixed. … In addition, [state Department of Water Resources Director Grant] Davis said “repairs and updates” are already being made at some of the 93 other dams around California where the state ordered intensive inspections in the wake of the Oroville crisis.
As California moves into rainy season, a growing number of voices are urging the state to explore getting out of federal flood insurance and creating its own program. … Among the loudest proponents of this small version of Calexit is Nicholas Pinter, a professor at UC Davis and associate director of its Center for Watershed Sciences.
Crews are laying the last layer of concrete on the Oroville Dam spillway with one day until the state Department of Water Resources’ deadline to have the structure ready to pass flows of 100,000 cubic-feet per second, or cfs.
Even living here on the West Coast, Marion Townsend decided to act as floods ravaged Texas and hurricanes pounded the Caribbean in recent weeks. Her Sacramento neighborhood slopes downward from a levee that separates it from the American River, in an area that officials concede never should have been settled but is home to 100,000 residents.
California needs to spend another $100 million a year to keep the state’s levee system sound, according to state flood control experts. At a press conference marking flood preparedness week Monday at a levee repair site near Sacramento, Bill Edgar, president of the Central Valley Flood Protection Board said the levees will need a $17 billion to $21 billion investment over the next 30 years to protect the seven million Californians at flood risk.
The state Department of Water Resources plans to clear mounds of rock from the Gold Rush days at the Oroville Wildlife Area and put them to use in the rebuilding of the spillways at Oroville Dam. DWR received approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, according to a filing made last week.
Trouble with the Upper Berryessa Creek flood project between North San Jose and Milpitas continues to work its way downstream, as a group of residents plan to legally challenge the Santa Clara Valley Water District and California Department of Fish and Wildlife in court over “unmitigated” environmental impacts from the Lower Berryessa Creek project.
The cost of repairing the crippling damage to Oroville Dam’s spillways caused by last winter’s fierce storms has almost doubled, state water officials said Thursday. … Jeff Petersen, project manager for Kiewit, said that once construction workers got on the site they discovered they had to dig much deeper to get down to bedrock than they had expected.
In one of the fastest-paced civic construction jobs in recent U.S. history, hundreds of carpenters, operating engineers and iron workers are rushing to complete repairs to the damaged Oroville Dam spillway. The crews are trying to beat a Nov. 1 deadline and the Northern California rainy season, which once again will begin to fill the massive reservoir behind the nation’s highest dam.
An unprecedented wave of destructive hurricanes has brought the long-struggling federal flood insurance program to the brink. Now Congress faces tough questions about whether to again bail out the nearly 50-year-old program and how to implement reforms to make it more sustainable, secure and cost-effective.
A plan has been prepared for flood control operations this rainy season at Oroville Dam, which call for keeping the lake lower and aggressively releasing water if the water level rises above trigger points. Up to now, the dam has been operated under rules drafted by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1970, which set a maximum lake surface elevation target of 848.5 feet above sea level for November through April, and 870.1 feet in May.
Local governments and nonprofits trying to recover from major disasters have sometimes learned the hard way that money spent on protective measures, cleanup and rebuilding is not always reimbursed by the U.S. government.
Thursday’s package, which the Senate could take up when it returns next week, includes money for Federal Emergency Management Agency’s nearly empty Disaster Relief Fund and for the financially-struggling National Flood Insurance Program.