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.
In the past, cyclical erosion would naturally occur —
wintertime storms washed sand out to sea, while summer swells
deposited it back on the beach. Besides climate change
melting ice at the poles and causing sea levels to
rise, strong storms such as those seen over the last few
days can also pull sand out to sea. But there are also the hard
structures that are having an impact, such as construction
inland that stops the natural flow of sand down creeks and
riverbeds to the beach.
For the first time, researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and collaborating
institutions have documented the transition of a stable,
slow-moving landslide into catastrophic collapse, showing how
drought and extreme rains likely destabilized the slide. The
Mud Creek landslide near Big Sur, California, dumped about 6
million cubic yards (5 million cubic meters) of rock and debris
across California Highway 1 on May 20, 2017.
Workers were patching Oroville Dam’s weathered concrete
spillway, nearly four years before a massive crater would tear
it open. Michael Hopkins, an employee at the Department of
Water Resources, alleges he saw something he would never
forget. A legally deaf woman was assigned to drive a truck
down the spillway and listen for hollow sounds in the concrete
as her colleagues performed what’s known as “chain drag
testing,” Hopkins wrote in a declaration filed last week in
Sacramento Superior Court.
Thursday marks two years since the first hole opened up in the
Oroville Dam Spillway, triggering an emergency that forced the
evacuation of nearly 200,000 people. … The new emergency
spillway is covered with roller-compacted concrete that looks
like a giant staircase. It is one of the biggest changes during
the reconstruction of the spillway project.
With another potential government shutdown on the horizon,
President Donald Trump remains coy about whether he’ll declare
a national emergency to fund the border wall he promised during
his 2016 campaign. This week, he told reporters that he
could use that power and divert money from the Army Corps of
Engineers. Democrats worry that could mean taking money away
from ongoing projects in Northern California, like raising
Just as Carpinteria was finishing its draft ocean adaptation
report, the State of California put out some gloomy news:
Sea-rise levels were now expected to rise 10 feet by 2100, not
5 feet. Carpinteria will be holding an all-residents-invited
workshop on February 12 to discuss the findings and
Anyone who has been on Balboa Island during a hard rain knows
the streets can flood. The city of Newport Beach is
considering replacing the island’s 1930s-era drainage system
with several automated below-ground pumps. That would save on
labor and costs associated with manually opening the tide gates
at the end of streets and sending out portable pumps and
slicker-clad city workers to dump excess storm water into the
In 70 years, San Francisco as we know it could look drastically
different. Gentrification, development and the other forces of
urban change we fret about may be mere trifles compared to the
drastic effects of climate change, including the rise of sea
levels and erosion, scientists say. By 2100, rising sea
levels could displace more than 480,000 people along the
California coast and result in property losses upwards of $100
billion if no preventative measures are taken, according to a
2009 study by the California Climate Change Center.
With each storm, the rain-swollen Russian River is washing away
more of a steep, muddy bank perilously close to River Road near
Geyserville, prompting Sonoma County supervisors to approve
Tuesday an emergency repair estimated at $250,000. Should the
river wipe out the road, about 400 residents of Alexander
Valley, a famed wine grape growing area, would be cut off from
a connection to Highway 128 leading southwest to Geyserville
and Highway 101.
A countywide effort to address sea level rise is gaining
momentum after San Mateo County supervisors took steps to form
a new government agency to manage flooding, sea level rise,
coastal erosion and stormwater infrastructure this week. By
expanding the San Mateo County Flood Control District’s
responsibilities … officials have looked to facilitate
coordination between jurisdictions as they set their sights on
a new set of challenges for water infrastructure projects.
In September of 2018, the Public Policy Institute of California
(PPIC) released the report, “Managing Drought in a Changing
Climate: Four Essential Reforms”, which asserted there are five
climate pressures affecting California’s water… The report
recommends four policy reforms: Plan ahead, upgrade the water
grid, update water allocation rules, and find the money.
Several areas of the Oroville Dam and lake are undergoing
extensive renovations and improvements, and the Oroville
Recreation Advisory Committee met Friday to hear reports from
the various member organizations overseeing them.
… Aaron Wright of the California Department of Parks and
Recreation said that several of the recently reopened areas
near the dam have received a good amount of traffic.
A new approach to flood management around the San Francisco Bay
could trim maintenance costs for water agencies, restore
habitat for endangered species, and help protect against rising
seas. What links the three? Sediment. Winter storms push
sediment down creeks that flow into the Bay and, long ago,
these waterways fanned out when they reached the edge. Sediment
settled there, nourishing tidal baylands — salt marshes and
mudflats that are rich in wildlife, and also buffer the shore
from storm surges, the highest tides, and sea level rise. Today
few of these low-lying tidal baylands remain.
The strongest Pacific storm of the season will lash California
through Saturday with high winds, feet of Sierra snow, and
heavy rain that could trigger flash flooding, debris flows and
rockslides. If that wasn’t enough, another colder storm is
waiting in the wings behind this first system.
Five dams across California – including one in Lake County that
forms Lake Pillsbury – have been listed as key for removal by
an advocacy group in the effort to stop the extinction of
native salmon and steelhead. In response to what it calls a
“statewide fish extinction crisis,” which indicates 74 percent
of California’s native salmon, steelhead and trout species are
likely to be extinct in the next century, the fish and
watershed conservation nonprofit organization California Trout
on Tuesday released its list of the top five dams prime for
removal in the golden state.
What was supposed to be a great flood control project that kept
homes safe in the South Bay has turned into a nightmare for
many homeowners. Repair crews continue to work on Ridgemont
Drive in San Jose, where they are replacing brick pillars
residents claim were damaged by the pounding to the flood
control project along the Silver Creek. Homeowners are footing
the bill for the repairs and say someone else should be paying.
Congressmen John Garamendi and Doug LaMalfa have reintroduced
legislation to provide farmers access to discounted rates under
the National Flood Insurance Program. The
bipartisan Flood Insurance for Farmers Act of
2019 (H.R.830) would also lift the de
facto federal prohibition on construction and repair of
agricultural structures in high flood-risk areas designated by
the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
After many years of hard work, North Coast dam removal efforts
are now rapidly accelerating. On Friday, Pacific Gas and
Electric Co. announced that it is pulling the application to
relicense the Potter Valley Project, a series of two dams and a
large diversion on the Upper Eel River. On Feb. 6, the
California Water Resources Control Board is coming to Arcata to
take comments on their final 401 (Clean Water Act) permit to
remove four dams on the Klamath River. What does this all mean?
Are we really about to see the Eel and Klamath River dams come
January storms bolstered a drought-stressed Lake Casitas, but
officials say burned hillsides continue to cause problems to
capturing water. About 8 inches of rain fell near Casitas
Dam in January. That pushed the area slightly above normal for
this time of year… But now, as rain slams
into burned hillsides, debris and ashy muck floods
into the diversion facility along with the water.
New data released measure changes in land subsidence in the
Sacramento Valley over the past nine years, finding the
greatest land surface declines in Arbuckle. According to the
Sacramento Valley GPS Subsidence Netwook Report and
accompanying fact sheet … land in the Arbuckle area has sunk
2.14 feet compared with baseline measurements recorded in the
same location in 2008, according to a press release from the
Department of Water Resources.
It took more than a decade to create, but a revised state
definition of wetlands and procedures to protect them from
dredge-and-fill activities requires still more work to make the
plan more clear and to reduce its impact on farmers, ranchers
Early last year, construction started on a $90 million project
to build seven miles of setback levees and floodplains to
protect Hamilton City from floods on the Sacramento River. …
The new barriers are much farther from the riverbanks—as far as
a mile away in places. In some respects, the concept is
absurdly simple: During heavy rains or spring snowmelt, rivers
need room to expand; moving levees back from riverbanks
provides it. Setback levees not only reduce the need for newer
and larger dams and levees, but also restore the natural
Sonoma County water officials, under order from the state to
improve the capacity of their sewage system, say a valve
malfunction and leaky pipes resulted in a string of spills this
month that released 2.7 million gallons of waste and
stormwater, some of which flowed into local creeks and San
The city of San Diego decided Tuesday to back California Atty.
Gen. Xavier Becerra’s lawsuit that seeks to hold the Trump
administration accountable for sewage and other toxic flows
that routinely spill over the border from Tijuana and foul
beaches as far north as Coronado. The City Council voted
unanimously in closed session on Tuesday to join the legal
action. Councilman Chris Cate was absent.
Maintaining functional wetlands in a 21st-century landscape
dominated by agriculture and cities requires a host of hard and
soft infrastructures. Canals, pumps, and sluice gates provide
critical life support, and the lands are irrigated and tilled
in seasonal cycles to essentially farm wildlife. Reams of laws
and regulations scaffold the system.
The proposed tunnel path stretches 35 miles from west of Elk
Grove to just below Discovery Bay. The tunnels would take water
from three intakes along the Sacramento River to existing
aqueducts south of Discovery Bay, and then the water will be
sent to Southern California. Along the proposed path, there are
at least 22 levees that would sit above the tunnels….
The concern is not so much the levees themselves, but the kind
of soil that is below the levees.
A new NASA study shows that warming of the tropical oceans due
to climate change could lead to a substantial increase in the
frequency of extreme rain storms by the end of the century. The
study team, led by Hartmut Aumann of NASA’s Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in Pasadena, California, combed through 15 years of
data acquired by NASA’s Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS)
instrument over the tropical oceans to determine the
relationship between the average sea surface temperature and
the onset of severe storms.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the State
Water Resources Control Board, or SWRCB, are extending outreach
to the cannabis cultivating community with presentations at
four permitting workshops in Northern California. The
presentations are ideally suited for cannabis cultivators,
consultants and anyone interested in the topic. SWRCB will
cover policy and permitting, and other important information.
Computers will be available for applicants to apply for water
rights and water quality permits.
City leaders met with Oregon state legislators this past week
to discuss the earliest stages of funding an $80 million
plan to fortify the city’s water system and ensure drinking
water is free from harmful algal toxins. The need for
cleaning out cyanotoxins and developing a backup water
system became apparent to city officials last summer when Salem
experienced a month-long drinking water crisis.
Unable to cope with wildfire claims, PG&E made good on its
vow to file for bankruptcy Tuesday, launching a perilous
journey with major implications for ratepayers, investors,
state officials and the thousands of California wildfire
victims who are suing the utility. Citing “extraordinary
financial challenges” and a rapidly deteriorating cash
position, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and its parent PG&E
Corp. sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in an electronic
filing shortly after midnight.
From 1,000 feet above, you can see surf pounding long sequences
of seawalls and riprap rocks protecting homes, the ocean
sometimes appearing to threaten structures, despite the
installed barriers. Where there are cliffs with no homes, the
waves gnaw away at the bluffs, moving the beaches at their base
farther inland. The extreme king tides of the past few days
occur only once or twice a year, but they offer a glimpse of
what normal tides will be eventually be doing daily as the
result of rising sea levels.
The nutria invasion of California continues. Greg Gerstenberg,
a biologist and nutria operations chief with the California
Department of Fish and Wildlife, said 372 nutria had been
trapped in the state as of Jan. 10. Bruce Blodgett, executive
director of the San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation, wants
farmers and others who maintain levees to be aware.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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 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 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 —
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.