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.
The Enterprise-Record/Oroville Mercury-Record got its closest
look so far Wednesday at the Oroville Dam spillway work on a
site visit hosted by the state Department of Water Resources.
… The visit included an hour-long meeting in a conference
room at DWR’s Oroville headquarters, and a trip to catch a view
of lower spillway blasting around 12:30 p.m. followed by access
to the structure above the spillway.
AB 646, which has passed two committees and could go to the
Assembly floor next week, would require landlords throughout
California to provide written notification to those renting in
“a special flood hazard area or an area of potential flooding.”
President Donald Trump made rebuilding the nation’s
infrastructure a major job-creating campaign pledge. But while
his first big federal budget proposal has $200 billion for that
purpose, most of it won’t be available until late 2018 and
Three months after Coyote Creek overflowed its banks and
caused $100 million in damage to homes and businesses in San
Jose, a flood control project straddling the city’s northern
edges with Milpitas may be in danger of being shut down because
of red tape. …
Federal dam regulators are reevaluating how they conduct dam
inspections in the wake of the Oroville Dam spillway crisis,
and they’ve ordered the nation’s dam operators to thoroughly
inspect their facilities to see “if they have a potential
Oroville waiting to happen,” a federal dam inspector said
State officials plan to stop releasing water down the mangled
main spillway at Oroville Dam on Friday, allowing workers to
begin months of round-the-clock repairs to the chute and to an
emergency spillway that is also badly damaged.
A hole in the concrete spillway chute of the Oroville Dam first
made itself known 100 days ago. How it got there is still a
mystery, as is what it will cost to fix the resulting damage
and whether a fix will be in place in time for the next rainy
The deaths of five people in two Tulare County rivers in less
than a month are prompting officials to warn the public about
the dangers of rushing water fed by the heavy snowpack now
melting in the Sierra. “Stay away from the river’s edge, and
don’t enter the water,” said Tulare County Sheriff Mike
America’s tallest dam was built from earth, stone and concrete
– and the towering ambition of Gov. Pat Brown. Sixty years
before a crisis at Oroville Dam sent thousands fleeing for
their lives in February, the late governor brought an almost
evangelical zeal to erecting the structure that would hold back
the Feather River to deliver water to the parched southern half
of the state.
Trouble had been developing at the Oroville Dam and the main
spillway had been shut down; water started flowing over the
emergency spillway and the hillside below it started
disintegrating at an alarming rate. Late afternoon on Feb. 12,
evacuation orders were issued. By most people’s accounts, it
didn’t go well.
If a fresh look had been taken at Oroville Dam — any time
between 50 years ago and last year — could the breakup of the
spillway have been avoided? Is enough being done to ensure that
work done today will keep the communities downstream of the dam
safe? Should the Department of Water Resources remain in charge
of the dam in the future?
The amount of money Donald Trump’s administration reimburses
California for repairs to Oroville Dam could depend on whether
the state properly maintained the dam’s spillway prior to it
crumbling this winter, a state water official told lawmakers
As in most of the other community meetings the Department of
Water Resources has conducted about the Oroville Dam spillway
crisis, staff members Tuesday night offered profuse apologies
and community members voiced distrust. … Many of those who
stood to speak said they or their families had also been
present for the floods of the past (1955, 1986, 1997).
There’s more debris in the water at the Oroville Dam Diversion
Pool than initially thought, and state Department of Water
Resources officials now don’t expect to complete dredging and
hauling of debris by December. DWR is seeking bids for the
The massive failure of the Oroville Dam’s main spillway in
February involved two dozen potential design and maintenance
problems, including thin concrete, inadequate reinforcing steel
and weaknesses in the foundation, a panel of engineering
experts reported Wednesday.
In a report released Wednesday, engineers assigned to
investigate the February failure of Oroville Dam’s main
spillway cited a variety of flaws in the 3,000-foot-long
structure, including variations in the thickness of the
concrete slabs, poor drainage beneath the spillway, improperly
filled cracks and signs of inadequate maintenance.
California is putting communities downstream in danger of
flooding with the way it runs the now-crippled Oroville Dam,
mayors and county leaders wrote this week in a strongly worded
letter to Gov. Jerry Brown.
The melting of this year’s record snowpack is continuing to
create problems, with authorities warning of more flooding in
Yosemite National Park and fast-moving, high water at a popular
Central Valley river.
California is borrowing up to $500 million to pay for the
crisis at Oroville Dam, although it expects to be reimbursed
for its costs. … Kiewit Corp. of Omaha, Neb., has won a
$275.4 million contract for the repairs, which are expected to
take two years.
California is asking the federal government to pay 75 percent
of the hundreds of millions of dollars in repairs to the badly
damaged spillways at the nation’s tallest dam, a state water
agency spokeswoman said Monday.
The independent board overseeing the repair of the damage main
Oroville Dam spillway has recommended the state Department of
Water Resources change its priorities and focus on the damaged
bottom chute rather than the top.
Outside consultants agree with the state’s plan to spend the
next two summers replacing sections of Oroville Dam’s still
largely intact upper spillway rather than trying to tear it all
out in one season. But the public can’t see the recommendations
the independent board of consultants gave the Department of
Water Resources to ensure the work is safe and sound.
High temperatures put the Merced River in Yosemite National
Park over flood stage on Thursday as snow from higher
elevations melted and flowed into the river’s basin. But most
Central California reservoirs, preparing for the warmer weather
and melting snowpack throughout the Sierra, have excess
capacity to handle such runoff.
The rain has largely stopped after one of the wettest winters
in California. But as spring temperatures begin to climb and
snow in the Sierra Nevada melts, the threat of flooding has
communities across the Central Valley on edge. … The
concerns are magnified in some areas by subsidence, a festering
problem exacerbated by five years of drought in the Central
Cindy Messer apologized Tuesday to several hundred grim
Oroville residents who had been ordered to run from their homes
three months earlier. They sat rigidly in their seats inside
the Oroville Municipal Auditorium at the first public meeting
Messer’s agency, the Department of Water Resources, has hosted
in Oroville since the February crisis at the dam.
Will there be a viewing platform where the public can watch
work being done on the Oroville spillway? That’s the plan,
according to Cindy Messer, Chief Deputy Director of the
Department of Water Resources.
The Stanislaus River charged at well above its typical May
volume as Lucas Huffman launched his kayak Tuesday at Knights
Ferry. … The central part of the [Sierra Nevada] range
has had near-record rain and snow. Temperatures have spiked
past 90 degrees, and the snowmelt has sped up.
State officials on Monday reported a near-record May snowpack,
but the bountiful winter that demolished California’s five-year
drought is now increasing the risk of late spring flooding, as
temperatures climb across the Sierra Nevada.
Water experts say the heavy spring runoff will likely continue
until summer, testing California’s flood management efforts in
what is a delicate balance between keeping enough water behind
dams to prevent downstream surges and releasing enough to make
space for the incoming melt.
Deep in the Trinity Alps, 130 miles northwest of the troubled
Oroville Dam, local officials are raising alarms about another
earthen dam with documented weaknesses and limited capacity for
releasing the water that has poured in from storms and melting
A power industry consulting firm has proposed a design for the
Oroville Dam spillways which involves not repairing the current
one, but building a new, wider spillway. … Kenneth Viney,
manager of CoastalGen Inc., based in Napa, filed suggestions
Monday with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the impact on your lives,” Bill
Croyle told a crowd of more than 250 people at the Butte County
Fairgrounds. Croyle, the acting director of the Department of
Water Resources, answered questions and listened Thursday
evening as people stepped up to a microphone and were heard
during the first of the water agency’s community meetings about
the Oroville Dam spillway disaster and evacuations.
California officials are keeping another document on the
Oroville Dam recovery sealed from public view but promise to
release a redacted version within a week. The Department of
Water Resources filed an update Thursday from the outside
consultants advising DWR on Oroville repairs.
Two experts weighed in on the memos that the Board of
Consultants assessing the current operations and future
spillway options sent to the Department of Water Resources. …
A former engineer who reviews disasters and a Chico State
University engineering professor reviewed the memos and talked
to this newspaper about their questions, comments and concerns.
Rivers were swift and wide this winter with heavy storms adding
up to the wettest winter in 122 years. People who have lived in
the Sacramento Valley for decades remember flooding from their
youth, when towns were evacuated, homes were lost and topsoil
Members of the state Senate Natural Resources and Water
Committee, at an hourlong oversight hearing on the Oroville
crisis, questioned Secretary John Laird, the head of the
Department of Water Resources and Natural Resources, on the
specifications of the $275 million contract awarded earlier
this month to Kiewit Corp. of Omaha, Neb., to fix the dam’s two
For the first time since the Lake Oroville spillway crisis
began, members of the state Legislature peppered key water
leaders with questions about what happened, what will happen
next and what can be learned from it all.
The head of California’s water agency on Tuesday repeated his
assertion that an emergency spillway at the Oroville Dam
worked, drawing an incredulous response from a state lawmaker
who represents tens of thousands of people ordered to evacuate
when it was feared erosion at the spillway could lead to
A pair of crippled spillways at Oroville Dam can be repaired in
part by November, but a good deal of the work will probably
have to be done after the next rainy season, according to
reports by an independent panel of experts.
The damage has been done and the repair contract awarded. …
How much will be the responsibility of homeowners, businesses,
farmers and other customers of the more than two dozen local
and regional agencies that contract with the State Water
Official reports released Monday say the catastrophic damage to
Oroville Dam’s main spillway probably stemmed from swift water
flows under the concrete chute, which was cracked and of uneven
Responding to criticism about secrecy around the Oroville Dam
repair effort, California officials released two redacted
reports Monday from outside engineers consulting on plans to
fix the dam’s battered spillways.
Citing the near disaster at Oroville Dam, a group of
congressional Democrats is pushing the government’s watchdog
agency to investigate federal oversight of dam safety
regulations. … Separately, the California state Senate
Natural Resources and Water Committee will hold an oversight
hearing on Oroville next Tuesday [April 25].
A disaster expert’s review of the Oroville Dam spillway
emergency says the Department of Water Resources could have
prevented everything with better design, better construction
and better maintenance. Robert Bea prepared the report
A coalition of environmental groups that had warned Oroville
Dam’s emergency spillway was fatally flawed long before it
nearly washed away this winter is demanding that federal
regulators open up dam repair plans for public vetting.
Late in the afternoon of Feb. 12, Sheriff Kory Honea was at the
emergency operations center for the tallest dam in America when
he overheard someone say something that stopped him in his
tracks: “This is not good.”
As state officials clamp down on records at Oroville Dam, one
of the country’s foremost experts on catastrophic engineering
failures has used state inspection reports, photographs and
historical design specifications to piece together an autopsy
detailing why the spillway at the country’s tallest dam failed
so spectacularly this winter.
California water officials Monday awarded a $275 million
contract to repair the troubled Oroville Dam to a subsidiary of
one of the world’s largest construction companies that is
headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska.
Design flaws, construction shortcomings and maintenance errors
caused the Oroville Dam spillway to break apart in February,
according to an independent analysis by Robert Bea for the
Center for Catastrophic Risk Analysis at UC Berkeley.
State officials have reopened the damaged spillway at Oroville
Dam as another set of rainstorms began moving across Northern
California. … Water will continue pouring down the spillway
for up to two weeks, depending on how much more rain falls.
California’s top water official said Thursday he’s considering
releasing redacted copies of safety and progress reports at the
troubled Oroville Dam after his office had tried to keep them
secret because of terrorism concerns.
With stormy weather approaching, state water managers announced
Thursday they will resume releasing water down a damaged
spillway at the nation’s tallest dam. The badly eroded main
spillway at California’s Oroville Dam hasn’t been used since
It’s not just the residents of Oroville, Gridley and Yuba City
who are frustrated with the Department of Water Resources’ lack
of transparency concerning the Oroville Dam spillways. Two
California legislators who represent those living downstream
from the dam are also upset that they aren’t getting answers.
… The state Senate’s Natural Resources Committee has a
hearing scheduled at 9 a.m. April 25 that will go over what
happened with the Oroville Dam spillway.
A state-commissioned report on climate change released
Wednesday raises the stakes for fighting global warming,
offering a clearer and, in some cases, more catastrophic
picture of how much sea levels will rise in California.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration is using federal security
regulations written to thwart terrorism to deny public access
to records that experts say could guide repairs to the Oroville
Dam and provide insight into what led to the near catastrophic
failure of its emergency spillway.
The Manteca Unified School District must pay to fund local
levee improvements, just like any other property owner in the
area, an appeals court has found. One attorney says the
decision is good news for the small levee districts across the
Delta charged with protecting farms and cities from floods.
California’s Dept. of Water Resources has announced a
fast-track plan to replace the shattered spillways at Oroville
Dam — at least partially — by November 1, when the rainy season
is expected to resume. Meanwhile, engineers at Oroville Dam are
drilling cores and conducting geological studies, hoping to
better understand February’s near-catastrophic spillway
California officials on Thursday announced an ambitious plan to
increase the size of Lake Oroville’s damaged main spillway,
allowing it to release nearly twice as much water, as they seek
to rebuild the 3,000-foot-long concrete chute that gave way
State officials sketched a two-year recovery plan Thursday for
the battered Oroville Dam spillway, revealing a blueprint
that’s far from complete, still in need of a price tag and
certain to leave the structure partially damaged as the next
rainy season approaches.
The Department of Water Resources can operate the Oroville Dam
project in an emergency capacity until Aug. 24. The U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers approved an emergency permit for the state
water agency Feb. 24, and it is good for six months.
Since the Oroville Dam spillway incident highlighted flaws in
the current system, Yuba-Sutter officials are in the process of
revising evacuation plans. Both Yuba and Sutter counties have
been gathering information from the public regarding the
February evacuation and plan on using the situation as a
Citing potential security risks, state and federal officials
are blocking the public’s ability to review documents that
could shed light on repair plans and safety issues at crippled
Oroville Dam. … The secrecy on the part of state dam
operators prompted state Sen. Jim Nielsen to call for an
immediate oversight hearing.
It’s a race against time this spring as water roars out of
Central California’s dams and rumbles its way to the
lowest-lying areas of the western San Joaquin Valley,
communities where land is collapsing and water channels are
growing more unstable. State engineers are generating new maps
to understand where water is stagnating in spots it once flowed
freely, and to learn which communities are in the most danger
President Donald Trump announced Sunday more than a
half-billion dollars would be coming to California to help
cover the damage from the winter storms, including $274 million
for repairs to the Oroville Dam spillway. The fulfillment of
the fourth presidential declaration for damage from the winter
storms totals an estimated $540 million.
The state Department of Water Resources gave the overseeing
federal agency of the Oroville Dam what it asked for last week
— a schedule for the independent review team investigating the
cause of the spillway failures, but it listed no deadline for a
final report from the team.
After millions of dollars of flood damage and mass evacuations
this year, California is grappling with how to update its aging
flood infrastructure. That has some calling for a new approach
to flood control – one that mimics nature instead of trying to
As snow continued to fall on the eastern Sierra Nevada on
Monday, platoons of earth movers, cranes and utility trucks
fanned out across the Owens Valley, scrambling to empty
reservoirs and clean out a lattice-work of ditches and
pipelines in a frantic effort to protect the key source of Los
The operators of Oroville Dam acknowledged Monday they might
not be able to permanently repair the dam’s battered main
spillway in time for the next rainy season, but said they’re
confident the fractured structure will be usable.
California’s top water manager said Monday that the
problem-plagued Oroville Reservoir will have a new spillway in
place to prevent potentially dangerous outflows of water in
time for the next rainy season.
More than a month after Coyote Creek spilled its banks and
flooded surrounding neighborhoods, city leaders Thursday said
some 500 families remain unable to return home and pleaded with
property owners to help house them.
The main spillway at Oroville Dam is riddled with design flaws
and so badly damaged that an independent panel of experts hired
by the state has concluded it’s probably impossible to repair
the structure completely before the next rainy season begins in
Safety experts say there is no time for delay in a state plan
to restore the 770-foot Oroville Dam, and they warn California
would face a “very significant risk” if a damaged spillway is
not in working order by fall, the start of the next rainy
While a nearly record-breaking rainy season has battered
California’s dams and stretched the limits of local levees, the
storms that began to hit Sacramento on Tuesday aren’t expected
to put much additional strain on the state’s flood-control
[Los Angeles] Mayor Eric Garcetti proclaimed a state of
emergency Monday, citing concerns that melting snowpack in the
eastern Sierra Nevada could flood homes and highways in the
Owens Valley and damage the Los Angeles Aqueduct.
The state Department of Water Resources Friday said the cost
associated with the ongoing crisis at Oroville Dam totaled
about $100 million through the end of February. … Meanwhile,
dam operators Friday began releasing water down the damaged
main spillway for the first time since flows were halted there
Naturally-occurring asbestos has been found in the rock
formations and in the air near the damaged Oroville Dam main
spillway, according to a press release. Although California
Department of Water Resources said risk to workers and the
surrounding community is minimal, dust-control operations are
President Donald Trump on Thursday declared a major disaster
for California because of damage caused by heavy rains that hit
the state from Jan. 18 to Jan. 23, making available federal
assistance to state and local agencies as well as some
The Department of Water Resources is planning to resume flows
this week through Oroville Dam’s damaged main spillway, and
warns that Feather River flows will increase to 40,000-50,000
cubic feet per second.
The Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee passed a
proposed $3.5 billion water and parks bond measure Tuesday,
with members calling for an assurance that if approved by
California voters in 2018, the funds would be equitably
distributed throughout the state. The bond, Senate Bill 5 by
Sen. Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, includes $500
million for flood protection investments that were just added
after the recent floods to address the state’s urgent needs.
California faces an estimated $50 billion price tag for roads,
dams and other infrastructure threatened by floods such as the
one that severely damaged Oroville Dam last month, the state’s
natural resources secretary said Wednesday.
Until a few weeks ago, the McCormack-Williamson Tract in the
California Delta was an island of low-lying farmland, more than
two square miles protected from the surrounding rivers and
sloughs by earthen levees.
Geologists attempted for the first time Tuesday to figure out
what to do about the vast, yawning canyon dug out of the earth
after a crater opened up in the Oroville Dam’s concrete
spillway and diverted water at high speed into the adjacent
For three weeks, Oroville Dam’s fractured main spillway and the
surrounding hillsides have taken a nearly nonstop pounding. The
stunning waterfall crashing down what’s left of the 3,000-foot
concrete span has split the spillway in two and carved massive
canyons on either side.
Billions of dollars in flood projects have eased fears of levee
breaks near California’s capital and some other cities, but
state and federal workers are joining farmers with tractors in
round-the-clock battles this week to stave off any
chain-reaction failure of rural levees protecting farms and
As hundreds of frustrated residents returned home Thursday to
begin cleaning up the damage from the worst South Bay flooding
in decades, water district officials said they tried to warn
city officials in the hours before Coyote Creek spilled into
neighborhoods that potentially destructive flows would arrive
within three to four hours.
At the end of the week Shasta County residents may see a
brief pause in an otherwise active rainy season, but
flooding will continue to pose a threat for many low-lying
areas along the Sacramento River and near other tributaries.
A day after rescuers boated hundreds of people to safety during
San Jose’s worst flooding in decades, city officials Wednesday
let many of the 14,000 evacuated residents return home and
blamed the sudden overflow of Coyote Creek on bad information
about its capacity.
As heavy winter storms continue to hammer California, the
Legislature is launching a review of dam and levee safety and
bracing for major investments necessary to shore up flood
control throughout the state.
Nine days ago, with the Oroville Dam under stress and battered
by more harsh weather, Gov. Jerry Brown said he had no
immediate plans to visit the site, suggesting “I don’t think
they need politicians fluttering around.”
The Department of Water Resources plans to remove at least some
of the debris at the bottom of the Oroville Dam spillway and
study the structure, but just aren’t sure when they’ll have a
chance to do that.
As the latest major storm to saturate California got in its
final licks Tuesday, the state deployed all the weapons in its
flood-control arsenal — including farm tractors, pontoon
boats and controlled releases from mountain reservoirs.
After the state Department of Water Resources reached its goal
early Monday morning of lowering the water level at Lake
Oroville by 50 feet, officials said heavy rains would likely
cause lake levels to rise several feet.
Creeks and rivers topped their banks, hundreds of homes were
evacuated and several thousand people found themselves trapped
in a rural hamlet as Northern California emerged Tuesday from
yet another winter storm.
The spillway gates opened at Don Pedro Reservoir at 3 p.m.
Monday, and over the next four or more days could nearly triple
the flow of the Tuolumne River as it comes through Stanislaus
County and Modesto.
The badly damaged main concrete spillway at Oroville Dam
was pounded by massive volumes of stormwater this month,
but its failures occurred well short of the maximum flow that
engineers designed the system to handle.
The frantic effort over the last few days to lower water levels
at Oroville Dam after the structure’s two spillways became
damaged is part of a larger drama playing out as California
rapidly shifts from extreme drought to intense deluges.
Officials raced to drain more water from a lake behind battered
Oroville Dam as new storms began rolling into Northern
California on Wednesday and tested the quick repairs made to
damaged spillways that raised flood fears.
When operators of Oroville Dam suddenly ordered evacuations on
Sunday, it focused a big spotlight on a crucial piece of
California’s flood-control infrastructure – spillways.
… Some of these dams are getting upgrades, albeit
Work crews repairing Oroville Dam’s damaged emergency spillway
are dumping 1,200 tons of rock each hour and using shotcrete to
stabilize the hillside slope, an official with the Department of
Water Resources told the California Water Commission today.
The pace of work is “round the clock,” said Kasey Schimke,
assistant director of DWR’s legislative affairs office.
At churches, fairgrounds and other makeshift shelters,
thousands of Californians packed what belongings they had into
garbage bags and suitcases to return home Tuesday, two days
after they were told to flee the threat of massive flooding
from a dam’s damaged spillway.
With both spillways badly damaged and a new storm approaching,
America’s tallest dam on Tuesday became the site of a desperate
operation to fortify the massive structures before they face
another major test. … In a sign of the progress made
Tuesday, officials downgraded the evacuation order to a
warning, allowing all evacuated residents to return home.
President Trump issued major disaster declarations to enable
federal funding for California on two fronts — to aid with the
Oroville Dam spillway damage and mass evacuations and to help
the state deal with the widespread effects of January’s storms.
There’s another storm bearing down on troubled Oroville Dam,
set to begin late Wednesday. But state officials say they
believe the precipitation will be mild enough – and the
reservoir empty enough – to handle this latest challenge.
As the nation’s 84,000 dams continue to age, a growing number
of people downstream of these structures are at risk,
according to experts and data of the nation’s dams.
… California has 1,585 dams, according to the National
Inventory of Dams database. Fifty-two percent of those dams are
considered a high hazard, the fourth-most of any state.
A huge Northern California reservoir, held in place by a
massive dam, has always been central to the life of the towns
around it. Now the lake that has brought them holiday fireworks
and salmon festivals could bring disaster.
One day after the deterioration of an Oroville Dam
spillway forced the evacuation of more than
180,000 people in the Sacramento Valley, a reservoir
at the southern end of Santa Clara Valley flirted with an
Gov. Jerry Brown asked the Trump administration for a federal
disaster declaration for the emergency at Oroville Dam on
Monday evening, citing the impending arrival of more storms and
the potential need to resort again to the dam’s emergency
spillway, which has been severely eroded.
As California waited Monday night to see if President Donald
Trump would grant Gov. Jerry Brown’s request for emergency
funding for 10,000 evacuees who lived in the shadow of the
Oroville Dam, FEMA began preparing for the worse.
California’s recovery from drought has been so remarkably quick
that reservoirs on the verge of record lows just a year ago are
now too full to handle more rain, prompting dam operators
across the state to unleash surpluses of water not seen in
Water Education for Latino Leaders is convening a statewide
educational water conference in Sacramento for California local
Local elected officials can make a difference for all
Californians by taking the necessary steps to understand the
dynamic of California water to assure adequate clean water for
our communities, protect our natural resources and our local
economies. WELL’s hope is to facilitate understanding towards
comprehensive long-term water policies that will sustain
California’s economy and quality of life.
The Water Education Foundation is an organizing partner.
Most of the time, motorists driving on Interstate 80 between
Davis and here [Sacramento] look out on vast tracts of farms
and wetlands. But over the last two weeks, something remarkable
has happened in what is known as the Yolo Bypass.
After another round of heavy rains soaked parts of California,
Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency late Monday for
several counties dealing with an estimated tens of million
dollars in damage from flooding, erosion, and mud flows.
In the years before California’s drought, it wasn’t unusual for
Sacramentans to spend winters worrying about floods. After more
than five years with little rain, the past two weeks delivered
a bracing reminder that the region remains vulnerable to rising
waters and overtopped levees.
Rescue workers used boats and firetrucks to evacuate dozens of
Northern California residents from their flooded homes
Wednesday as a drought-busting series of storms began to move
out of the region after days of heavy rain and snow that
toppled trees and created havoc as far north as Portland,
The Russian River surged to its highest level in a decade
Wednesday and deepened flooding woes, while across the North
Coast, crews in cities as well as rural areas scrambled to
re-open roads, clear toppled trees, restore power and bring
normalcy back to a region battered by four days of punishing
A lull in a series of powerful winter storms gave Northern
California a chance Monday to clean up from widespread flooding
while also assessing how all that moisture is altering the
state’s once-grim drought picture.
ARkStorm stands for an atmospheric river (“AR”) that carries
precipitation levels expected to occur once every 1,000 years
(“k”). The concept was presented in a 2011 report by the U.S.
Geological Survey (USGS) intended to elevate the visibility of
the very real threats to human life, property and ecosystems
posed by extreme storms on the West Coast.
Outgoing Rep. Sam Farr addressed a 23-member panel bringing
together local representatives from four counties, the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers, municipal flood control staff members
and the two candidates running to replace him on Nov. 8, Casey
Lucius and Jimmy Panetta.
As the rainy season begins in California, so too does the
potential for dangerous flash flooding. … California
agencies are using a new computer monitoring tool to understand
ground conditions in real-time, including areas burned by
Back-to-back bouts of rain that began Monday will make for an
unusually wet week leading up to Halloween, said forecasters
who are beginning to grow concerned about potential flooding
this winter in fire-scorched areas.
A hydrograph illustrates a type of activity of water during a
specific time frame. Salinity and acidity are sometimes measured,
but the most common types
are stage and discharge hydrographs. These graphs show how
surface water flow responds to fluxes in precipitation.
Prado Dam – built in 1941 in response to the Santa Ana River’s flood-prone
past – separates the river into its upper and lower
watersheds. After the devastation of the deadly Los
Angeles Flood of 1938 that impacted much of Southern
California, it became evident that flood protection was woefully
inadequate, prompting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to
construct Prado Dam.
Contrary to popular belief, “100-Year Flood” does not refer to a
flood that happens every century. Rather, the term describes the
statistical chance of a flood of a certain magnitude (or greater)
taking place once in 100 years. It is also accurate to say a
so-called “100-Year Flood” has a 1 percent chance of occurring in
a given year, and those living in a 100-year floodplain have,
each year, a 1 percent chance of being flooded.
Staffers with the county’s public works department and
Community Development Agency were recently recognized for their
creative approach to engaging residents in a discussion on
sea-level rise, earning a public outreach award from the state
chapter of the American Planning Association for their creation
— the board game the “Game of Floods.”
A new $37.2 million levee in the town of St. Helena, on the
floodplain of the Napa River, has a colorful history and has
been stirring local acrimony since its inception. …
There are clearly positive elements of the St. Helena levee
project, but also numerous missteps that have mired the project
in dissent and even, opponents argue, threaten to bankrupt the
town. With important planning and zoning decisions now
pending, the St. Helena levee is a case study for other
communities to examine before they consider all of the options
for flood-risk management.
In an effort to help maintain the balance between freshwater
habitat and flood protection, the Monterey County Resource
Management Agency brought in special crews to work at the
Carmel Lagoon area Monday.
Local architect Cove Britton is seeking to correct what he
contends are inaccuracies in preliminary flood insurance rate
maps that could negatively affect his clients and their
neighbors in tony Pleasure Point. … Three years ago,
homeowners from Oregon to Maine complained about map
inaccuracies, according to Pro Publica, an investigative
journalism nonprofit that found money for FEMA’s map project
was cut by Congress.
In record numbers, homeowners throughout the state rushed out
to buy flood insurance in anticipation of the widely hyped –
and feared – monster El Niño. …. And some are asking: Did all
these insurance buyers make a monster mistake?
Years of rumbling dump trucks and backhoes placing 2.75 million
tons of rock “armor” along nearly a dozen miles of riverbank is
an unpleasant thought for many who bike, jog, fish, bird-watch,
golf, boat and swim along the lower American River Parkway.
After years of drought, Northern California has so much water
that the state’s two largest reservoirs are releasing water to
maintain flood-control safety. … Shasta and Oroville are
the twin anchors of California’s giant water-delivery
With Lake Oroville rising more than 82 feet this month, the
water level is now cutting into the buffer needed for flood
control. … Other north state reservoirs have increased
their outflows as they encroach on flood control limits.
As Californians hope for rain and snow to end the state’s
extreme drought, a decades-old rule prohibits reservoirs from
filling up in the winter, so some water ends up being released.
The rule may sound odd given how chronically dry California is,
but it’s actually to prevent a bigger disaster: flooding.
Water from the rain-swollen Sacramento River began flowing over
the Fremont Weir and into the Yolo Bypass on Saturday morning,
according to monitors at the California Nevada River Forecast
Center, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
The first of a pair of storms pounded Northern California on
Thursday, bringing heavy bands of rain to the North Bay,
causing minor flooding and mudslides, and raising the specter
that the flood-prone Russian River might spill its banks.