Topic: Levees

Overview

Levees

California would not exist as it does today were it not for the extensive system of levees, weirs and flood bypasses that have been built through the years, particularly in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Aquafornia news Sacramento Bee

These Sacramento County levees have serious damage

A single Cosumnes River levee sustained $1.5 million in damage after recent winter storms tore out a hole the size of a football field. But the federal government’s emergency management has not yet agreed to give local officials the money to fix that embankment. The agency has refused to fund this stretch of the river for years, saying the barriers do not meet the criteria for intervention because they were not built to meet the agency’s standards. It regards them as “levee-like” structures, not levees. The policy has had lasting repercussions in this corner of south Sacramento County, where certain parts of flood infrastructure stay broken for years. In 2017, for instance, storms battered levees along a 15-mile stretch of the Cosumnes. Local officials asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, for help fixing 16 pieces of infrastructure damaged during the floods.

Aquafornia news U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

News release: USACE awards $27.5 million contract for 2023 levee improvement work along Sacramento River East Levee

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District awarded a $27.575 million construction contract on January 20, 2023, to Maloney Odin Joint Venture of Novato, for more than 2.6 miles of levee improvements at five locations along the Sacramento River East Levee between the I Street Bridge and just south of the town of Freeport. Work is scheduled to begin this spring and is expected to be complete in December 2023. USACE is planning to host an informational meeting in March to discuss what this construction work will look like, including trail access, haul routes, and staging areas. Details for this meeting are still being finalized and will be posted to www.sacleveeupgrades.com prior to the meeting. 

Aquafornia news Modesto Bee

Opinion: Restore floodplains money in California budget, Gov. Newsom

What’s worse? Horrifying killer storms or slow death by drought? California’s climate can be extreme — drought or deluge. Both are deadly, each exacerbating damage caused by the other. Fortunately, some people are doing the necessary, innovative and difficult work to combat drought and deluge at the same time. Infuriatingly, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s budget proposal abandons some of the most important flood-control, drought-fighting measures taking place in our state. He removed a $40 million allocation approved last year for floodplain restoration — work designed to reduce lethal flooding, store water underground, remove carbon from the atmosphere and create wildlife habitat. This comes on top of a decision two years ago to remove $60 million for other San Joaquin Valley floodplain projects.
-Written by Adam Gray, formerly representing Merced County and part of Stanislaus County in the California Assembly.​

Aquafornia news Capital Press

Newsom budget would cut some money for California flood protection

Multiple flood protection projects in California are on hold after Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed cutting their funding to help cover a $22.5 billion budget deficit — a decision disappointing environmental advocates as weeks of powerful storms have caused widespread flooding that damaged homes and washed away roads. Newsom’s budget proposal, released last week, cuts $40 million that had been pledged for floodplain restoration projects along rivers in the San Joaquin Valley, an area at high risk of catastrophic flooding. Those projects would allow for rivers to flood in strategic places during winter storms or the spring Sierra Nevada snowmelt, reducing the risks for populated areas downstream while also benefiting environmental ecosystems.

Aquafornia news Associated Press

Warming to make California downpours even wetter, study says

As damaging as it was for more than 32 trillion gallons of rain and snow to fall on California since Christmas, a worst-case global warming scenario could juice up similar future downpours by one-third by the middle of this century, a new study says. The strongest of California’s storms from “atmospheric rivers,” long and wide plumes of moisture that form over an ocean and flow through the sky over land, would probably get an overall 34% increase in total precipitation, or another 11 trillion gallons more than just fell. 

Related article:

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: California faces monumental dangers in future floods

The storms that have been battering California offer a glimpse of the catastrophic floods that scientists warn will come in the future and that the state is unprepared to endure. Giant floods like those that inundated the Central Valley in 1861 and 1862 are part of California’s natural cycle, but the latest science shows that the coming megafloods, intensified by climate change, will be much bigger and more destructive than anything the state or the country has ever seen. A new state flood protection plan for the Central Valley presents a stark picture of the dangers. It says catastrophic flooding would threaten millions of Californians, putting many areas underwater and causing death and destruction on an unprecedented scale. The damage could total as much as $1 trillion.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Association of California Water Agencies

Newsom announces proposed budget with funding for water categories

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Jan. 10 unveiled his proposed budget for the next fiscal year … [T]he governor has proposed timely new funding for flood risk reduction and protection, as well as several other important water management issues. Specifically, the governor’s proposed budget calls for funding in the following categories. Urban Flood Risk Reduction — $135.5 million over two years to support local agencies working to reduce urban flood risk. Delta Levee — $40.6 million for ongoing Delta projects that reduce risk of levee failure and flooding, provide habitat benefits, and reduce the risk of saltwater intrusion contaminating water supplies. Central Valley Flood Protection — $25 million to support projects that will reduce the risk of flooding for Central Valley communities while contributing to ecosystem restoration and agricultural sustainability.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Thursday Top of the Scroll: Toddler killed, cities evacuated as massive storm lashes Northern California

A powerful winter storm unleashed heavy rain and strong winds across Northern California on Wednesday, triggering evacuations and power outages, and heightening fears of widespread flooding and debris flows. … Wednesday’s storm is the third atmospheric river that’s hit California in the last two weeks. The successive storms have brought a deluge of water to the drought-stricken state, prompting Gov. Newsom to declare a state of emergency to “support response and recovery efforts.” … The series of atmospheric rivers that started toward the end of December was somewhat surprising after one of California’s driest years on record, which left reservoirs drained and soils parched.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

String of brutal atmospheric rivers imperils a California already weakened by drought

A successive series of powerful atmospheric river storms poses a growing threat to California as the ground becomes more saturated, river levels rise and heavy winds threaten the power infrastructure. This week’s storms are expected to dump intense levels of rain in a fairly short period of time. The greatest potential for disaster is in Northern California, which has already been battered by several destructive storms — including one this weekend that caused a deadly levee breach. But each new storm, including one set to arrive Wednesday, adds new pressure.

Related articles: 

California Spent Decades Trying to Keep Central Valley Floods at Bay. Now It Looks to Welcome Them Back
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: Floodplain restoration gets a policy and funding boost as interest grows in projects that bring multiple benefits to respond to climate change impacts

Land and waterway managers labored hard over the course of a century to control California’s unruly rivers by building dams and levees to slow and contain their water. Now, farmers, environmentalists and agencies are undoing some of that work as part of an accelerating campaign to restore the state’s major floodplains.

Tour Nick Gray Jenn Bowles Layperson's Guide to the Delta

Bay-Delta Tour 2021
A Virtual Journey - September 9

This tour guided participants on a virtual journey deep into California’s most crucial water and ecological resource – the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The 720,000-acre network of islands and canals support the state’s two major water systems – the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project. The Delta and the connecting San Francisco Bay form the largest freshwater tidal estuary of its kind on the West coast.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

Can a New Approach to Managing California Reservoirs Save Water and Still Protect Against Floods?
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Pilot Projects Testing Viability of Using Improved Forecasting to Guide Reservoir Operations

Bullards Bar Dam spills water during 2017 atmospheric river storms.Many of California’s watersheds are notoriously flashy – swerving from below-average flows to jarring flood conditions in quick order. The state needs all the water it can get from storms, but current flood management guidelines are strict and unyielding, requiring reservoirs to dump water each winter to make space for flood flows that may not come.

However, new tools and operating methods are emerging that could lead the way to a redefined system that improves both water supply and flood protection capabilities.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

When Water Worries Often Pit Farms vs. Fish, a Sacramento Valley Farm Is Trying To Address The Needs Of Both
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: River Garden Farms is piloting projects that could add habitat and food to aid Sacramento River salmon

Roger Cornwell, general manager of River Garden Farms, with an example of a refuge like the ones that were lowered into the Sacramento River at Redding to shelter juvenile salmon.  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.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to the Delta

ON THE ROAD: Park Near Historic Levee Rupture Offers Glimpse of Old Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
Big Break Regional Shoreline will be a stop on Bay-Delta Tour May 16-18

Visitors explore a large, three-dimensional map of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta at Big Break Regional Shoreline in Oakley. Along the banks of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in Oakley, about 50 miles southwest of Sacramento, is a park that harkens back to the days when the Delta lured Native Americans, Spanish explorers, French fur trappers, and later farmers to its abundant wildlife and rich soil.

That historical Delta was an enormous marsh linked to the two freshwater rivers entering from the north and south, and tidal flows coming from the San Francisco Bay. After the Gold Rush, settlers began building levees and farms, changing the landscape and altering the habitat.

Video

Delta Warning

15-minute DVD that graphically portrays the potential disaster should a major earthquake hit the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. “Delta Warning” depicts what would happen in the event of an earthquake registering 6.5 on the Richter scale: 30 levee breaks, 16 flooded islands and a 300 billion gallon intrusion of salt water from the Bay – the “big gulp” – which would shut down the State Water Project and Central Valley Project pumping plants.

Publication

Layperson’s Guide to the State Water Project
Updated 2013

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to the State Water Project provides an overview of the California-funded and constructed State Water Project.

Publication

Layperson’s Guide to Flood Management
Updated 2009

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to Flood Management explains the physical flood control system, including levees; discusses previous flood events (including the 1997 flooding); explores issues of floodplain management and development; provides an overview of flood forecasting; and outlines ongoing flood control projects. 

Publication

Layperson’s Guide to the Delta
Updated 2020

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to the Delta explores the competing uses and demands on California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Included in the guide are sections on the history of the Delta, its role in the state’s water system, and its many complex issues with sections on water quality, levees, salinity and agricultural drainage, fish and wildlife, and water distribution.

Maps & Posters California Water Bundle

California Water Map
Updated December 2016

A new look for our most popular product! And it’s the perfect gift for the water wonk in your life.

Our 24×36 inch California Water Map is widely known for being the definitive poster that shows the integral role water plays in the state. On this updated version, it is easier to see California’s natural waterways and man-made reservoirs and aqueducts – including federally, state and locally funded projects – the wild and scenic rivers system, and natural lakes. The map features beautiful photos of California’s natural environment, rivers, water projects, wildlife, and urban and agricultural uses and the text focuses on key issues: water supply, water use, water projects, the Delta, wild and scenic rivers and the Colorado River.

Floodplains in California

With the dual threats of obsolete levees and anticipated rising sea levels, floodplains—low areas adjacent to waterways that flood during wet years—are increasingly at the forefront of many public policy and water issues in California.

Adding to the challenges, many floodplains have been heavily developed and are home to major cities such as Sacramento. Large parts of California’s valleys are historic floodplains as well.

Aquapedia background

Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Levees

Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Levees

Roughly 1,115 miles of levees protect farms, cities, schools and people in and around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a crucial conduit for California’s overall water supply. But the Delta’s levees are vulnerable to failure due to floods, earthquakes and rising sea levels brought about by climate change. A widespread failure could imperil the state’s water supply.

Aquapedia background

Levees

Levees

California would not exist as it does today were it not for the extensive system of levees, weirs and flood bypasses that have been built through the years, particularly in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

These levees have been in place dating back to 1850, when California first joined the union.

Western Water Magazine

Meeting the Co-equal Goals? The Bay Delta Conservation Plan
May/June 2013

This issue of Western Water looks at the BDCP and the Coalition to Support Delta Projects, issues that are aimed at improving the health and safety of the Delta while solidifying California’s long-term water supply reliability.

Western Water Magazine

How Much Water Does the Delta Need?
July/August 2012

This printed issue of Western Water examines the issues associated with the State Water Board’s proposed revision of the water quality Bay-Delta Plan, most notably the question of whether additional flows are needed for the system, and how they might be provided.

Western Water Magazine

Levees and Flood Protection: A Shared Responsibility
May/June 2012

This printed issue of Western Water discusses several flood-related issues, including the proposed Central Valley Flood Protection Plan, the FEMA remapping process and the dispute between the state and the Corps regarding the levee vegetation policy.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

Levees and Flood Protections: A Shared Responsibility
May/June 2012

Levees are one of those pieces of engineering that are never really appreciated until they fail. California would not exist as it does today were it not for the extensive system of levees, weirs and flood bypasses that have been built through the years.

Western Water Magazine

Finding a Vision for the Delta
March/April 2008

This printed copy of Western Water examines the Delta through the many ongoing activities focusing on it, most notably the Delta Vision process. Many hours of testimony, research, legal proceedings, public hearings and discussion have occurred and will continue as the state seeks the ultimate solution to the problems tied to the Delta.

Western Water Magazine

A Significant Challenge: Adapting Water Management to Climate Change
January/February 2008

This printed copy of Western Water examines climate change – what’s known about it, the remaining uncertainty and what steps water agencies are talking to prepare for its impact. Much of the information comes from the October 2007 California Climate Change and Water Adaptation Summit sponsored by the Water Education Foundation and DWR and the November 2007 California Water Policy Conference sponsored by Public Officials for Water and Environmental Reform.

Western Water Magazine

It Can Happen Here: Assessing California’s Flood Risk
November/December 2005

This issue of Western Water examines the extent to which California faces a disaster equal to or greater than the New Orleans floods and the steps being taken to recognize and address the shortcomings of the flood control system in the Central Valley and the Delta, which is of critical importance because of its role in providing water to 22 million people. Complicating matters are the state’s skyrocketing pace of growth coupled with an inherently difficult process of obtaining secure, long-term funds for levee repairs and continued maintenance.

Western Water Magazine

Flood Management 2004: A System in Peril
September/October 2004

This issue of Western Water analyzes northern California’s extensive flood control system – it’ history, current concerns, the Paterno decision and how experts are re-thinking the concept of flood management.