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
Across much of the United States, the flood risk is far greater
than government estimates show, new calculations suggest,
exposing millions of people to a hidden threat… That new
calculation, which takes into account sea-level rise, rainfall
and flooding along smaller creeks not mapped federally,
estimates that 14.6 million properties are at risk from what
experts call a 100-year flood, far more than the 8.7 million
shown on federal government flood maps. [See the map to explore
county flood risk in California and the West.]
The project — managed jointly by California Division of Fish
and Wildlife, the Department of Water Resources and the
Department of Parks and Recreation — seeks to make changes in
Franks Tract with the goal of improving water quality,
providing enhanced recreational opportunities and improving the
ecology for the benefit of native and desirable wildlife.
Voters approved a $90 million general obligation bond for the
project in 2018, and construction was supposed to be complete
by December of this year. Now officials are expecting the
project to cost about $109 million and not be complete until
Encouraged by a recently vetted new method for creating carbon
offsets from wetlands, a flurry of new climate adaptation
projects on publicly owned islands strewn along the central
Delta corridor aim to defend against sea-level rise, restore
habitat, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
As winter rains intensify with climate change, flooding will
worsen in Santa Clara County, the Bay Area’s largest by
population… The Coyote Creek system — 1,500 miles of
waterways that drain a 350-square-mile watershed — connects
half a dozen elements that are key to climate adaptation, from
reservoirs to creek confluences to the Bay shore.
Driving on Highway 101 from the South Bay, up the Peninsula,
commuters zoom by nearly invisible infrastructure keeping the
highway and nearby communities dry. Beyond the highway, at the
edge of the San Francisco Bay, are levees and tide gates
protecting roads and neighborhoods against high tides and storm
flooding. Unless you visit the bay lands to walk the levee
trails, you might never know these important structures exist.
Existing residents in the 200-year-flood zone are not off the
hook when it comes to paying for more robust protection. …
That’s because fees assessed on new growth — homes, commercial
and industrial concerns — being built in the flood zone only
will cover a third of the bill.
Hundreds of studies on nature-based solutions to extreme events
show that “green infrastructure” is often cheaper and more
effective than engineered projects like dams, levees and sea
walls, according to a new analysis. Experts say federal and
state governments should heed those findings and increase
funding for natural landscapes and systems to reduce climate
disaster risk. Solutions include floodplain restoration and
“living shorelines” along vulnerable coasts and rivers.
Grimes and Knights Landing are among three projects that have
been selected to receive grant funding under the second phase
of the Small Communities Flood Risk Reduction Program,
according to the California Department of Water Resources.
The likelihood of intense storms is rising rapidly in North
America, and the study, published Monday in the Proceedings of
the National Academy of Sciences, projects big increases in
such deluges. … If the current rate of warming continues,
Earth will heat up 5.4 degrees by 2100. Then, 20, 50 and
100-year extreme rainstorms could happen every 1.5 to 2.5
years, the researchers concluded.
In May, Cyclone Amphan made landfall in Bangladesh and eastern
India. The category 5 storm forced around 3 million people to
flee their homes. With this scenario in mind, a group of
disaster experts published guidelines for political leaders and
emergency managers so that they can prepare before the storms
The water keeps rising, shrinking the window for implementing
solutions. Sea-level rise already threatens the bay shore,
which, at about 500 miles, is half the length of the entire
California coast. The worst is yet to come: The Bay Area needs
to plan for a 2-foot rise by 2050 and up to 7 feet by 2100.
A marshy tract known as Sherman Island is one of the most
sensitive and geographically important locations for water
conveyance in California. On May 11, DWR began a restoration
project on the southeast side of the island that combats
climate change while protecting statewide water supply.
California has a paradoxical history with its environment. On
one hand, the state boasts incredible natural beauty, along
with a government that is an internationally recognized leader
for strong environmental policies. But the state’s residents
have also caused severe environmental destruction, particularly
in the late nineteenth century — some of which helped spur the
mobilization that led to these environmental successes.
The Three Rivers Levee Improvement Authority plans to finish a
levee improvement program at the Goldfields later this year
that has been in the making since 2004 and will have cost
approximately $500 million once all is said and done.
The 2017 Central Valley Flood Protection Plan’s Investment
Strategy looked at … retooling the Sacramento-San Joaquin
Drainage District to provide a small continuous funding stream
for ongoing expenditures of the flood management system. At the
April meeting of the Central Valley Flood Protection Board,
consultants discussed the upcoming feasibility study.
Dr. Laurel Larsen, an expert in hydroecology, landscape
dynamics, complex environmental systems, and environmental
restoration, was unanimously appointed by the Delta Stewardship
Council on Thursday as lead scientist. Most recently, Dr.
Larsen has served as an associate professor in the Department
of Geography and Civil and Environmental Engineering at the UC
On a recent sunny, windy March day – just before COVID-19 sent
the [San Francisco] Bay Area into lockdown – Dave Halsing stood
on the trails at Eden Landing Ecological Reserve and
pointed out what used to be old industrial salt ponds. He noted
how they’re gradually being restored into a rich mosaic of
tidal wetlands and other ecosystems in the South Bay Salt Pond
Lewis MacAdams, a poet and crusader for restoring the concrete
Los Angeles River to a more natural state and co-founder of one
of the most influential conservation organizations in
California, has died. He was 75.
Led by the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development
Commission, the report takes study findings from throughout the
region to demonstrate the shared impacts of sea level rise
ranging from 12 to 108 inches on housing, transportation
networks, critical environmental habitat, jobs and
In the fall of 2018, a six-member independent Social Science
Task Force was charged by the Delta Stewardship Council’s Delta
Science Program to develop a strategy for strengthening and
integrating social sciences into the science, management, and
policy landscape of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. This
document summarizes the findings and recommendations of the
It’s a simple rule, designed to protect both homeowners and
taxpayers: If you want publicly subsidized flood insurance, you
can’t build a home that’s likely to flood. But local
governments around the country, which are responsible for
enforcing the rule, have flouted the requirements, accounting
for as many as a quarter-million insurance policies in
violation, according to data provided to The New York Times by
the Federal Emergency Management Agency…
California’s homeless crisis is one of the state’s top issues,
but the least discussed aspect of this broad problem is the
damage these homeless encampments cause to our levees. …
Large trenches dug into the side of levees impact the integrity
and stability of our protective barriers that are engineered to
keep our homes and community from flooding.
While studies attributing flood events to individual drivers
can be valuable, ignoring interdependencies among these drivers
as well as the effects of changing river morphology implicitly
promotes simplified views of the challenges inherent to flood
management. Further research must account for these
For decades, the discussion over flood mitigation in Petaluma
has almost exclusively centered around storm surges and heavy
rainfall events. Now, months after the city made its landmark
climate emergency proclamation, attention is shifting to focus
more on sea level rise and scientific projections that offer a
glimpse into what could be a sodden future.
Paul Detjens is driving us from his Martinez office to a
restoration site near the mouth of Walnut Creek on Suisun Bay,
a project he spearheads as an engineer for the Contra Costa
County Flood Control District. … The closer we get to our
destination, however, the more industrial the landscape
becomes, and the more improbable it seems that we’re in the
right place to realize this vision.
Cindy Messer considers one of her greatest professional
accomplishments also the toughest experience in her 23-year
career. Messer was sworn in as chief deputy director of the
California Department of Water Resources the day after the
Oroville Dam crisis began in February 2017… But within
months, her boss retired, and she became acting interim
director for the recovery phase.
Spurred by a recent change in federal flood zone maps and a
desire to prepare for rising seas, Foster City is in the
process of raising its levees by 1 to 7 feet. Residents voted
in 2018 to tax themselves in order to pay for the estimated $90
million upgrade. When the project breaks ground later this
year, the city of 35,000 people will vault to the forefront of
urban adaptation in the Bay Area to rising waters.
While the bulk of the $175 million goes toward addressing
seepage issues along San Joaquin River levees, a dry levee in
southwest Manteca plays a key role in making sure potential
breaks along the San Joaquin south of RD-17 or levee failures
on the Stanislaus River don’t flood portions of either city.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District awarded a
$64 million construction contract on February 14 … for nearly
three miles of levee improvements along the Sacramento River
East Levee. This project will kick off major construction in
the region to complete approximately $1.5 billion of work to
upgrade levees along the American and Sacramento Rivers as well
as widening the Sacramento Weir and Bypass.
An investigation by NBC Bay Area has found more than two dozen
major construction projects worth billions of dollars – either
recently completed or still in development or – located in
areas along San Francisco Bay that scientific computer models
show will be flooded or surrounded by water by 2050 or earlier.
A long-planned Pajaro River flooding prevention project has
secured its first federal funding for engineering and design.
Earlier this week, Rep. Jimmy Panetta announced that the Pajaro
River Flood Risk Reduction Project had been provided $1.8
million from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 2020 work plan
Congressional leaders unveiled a transformative vision of
moving America and the environment forward by investing in 21st
century infrastructure. The Moving Forward Framework outlines a
five-year plan for bold investment in transportation and water
The main focus of the program are the barriers to fish passage
for salmon from Friant Dam to the ocean and back again. There
are three key barriers: the East Side Bypass Control Structure
which is in the flood bypass; Sack Dam, which is the intake for
Arroyo Canal for Henry Miller irrigation system; and Mendota
Dam which controls Mendota Pool. The program also needs to
ensure enough habitat for the fish when they return to complete
their life cycle,
At a panel discussion hosted by California Natural Resources
Secretary Wade Crowfoot, the panelists discussed how by
spreading out and slowing down water across the landscape can
provide multiple benefits year-round by allowing farmers to
cultivate the land during the spring and summer, and provide
habitat for fish and wildlife in the fall and winter months.
Combined with a safer spillway completed in 2017, federal dam
officials say the flood-prone region is on its way to 300-year
or more flood safety, meaning there will only be a one-in-300
chance in any given year that the combination dam and
downstream levee system will fail.
Response to Wednesday’s action by the California Department of
Water Resources to initiate an environmental impact report for
a tunnel project in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta was
not popular with the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors.
Weak and problematic levees are a big reason why there was so
much destruction when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in
2005. It cost Louisiana and Mississippi more than $150 billion
dollars and killed more than 1,800 people. But could something
like this happen in the Sacramento region? The answer CapRadio
heard from levee experts is yes, Sacramento could see that type
of flooding, but there are a lot of things that lower that
Praising progress on a long-awaited Pajaro River flood
prevention project, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors
reviewed a proposed regional flood prevention agency that would
oversee construction and operation of the $393.7 million
initiative. By a unanimous vote, the county board directed
staff to finalize a joint powers agreement at the center of the
proposed Pajaro Regional Flood Management Agency.
Lathrop — like any other community — has a homeless problem.
But unlike other communities, the homeless problem could
imperil the community. That’s because a number of homeless in
the Lathrop area have taken to digging holes into the base of
levees designed to hold back the San Joaquin River at high
A climate research organization will offer access to a risk
model that predicts the probability of flooding for homes
across the United States, giving the public a look at the data
institutional investors use to gauge risk.
The courtroom battle over 9,000-acre Staten Island is the
latest conflict in the Delta over farming, wetlands and aging
levees that, besides preventing flooding, preserve a way of
life on the man-made islands. The suit, filed in 2018 by a
group called Wetlands Preservation Foundation, accuses the
California Department of Water Resources and the Nature
Conservancy of failing to adequately protect wildlife or employ
sustainable agricultural practices on the property…The stakes
are high because the channels, islands and marshes that make up
the Delta are a catch basin for most of California’s drinking
The river barreled over, sinking the streets of Sacramento in
6-feet of water. It was streaming fast, flooding the hotels and
houses of Gold Rush migrants hoping to find fortune in the
bountiful land of California.
King tides, a naturally occurring phenomenon that received a
common name only a decade ago, are heading to California
shorelines this weekend — and with them, a series of public
events intended to show people the dangers posed by sea level
While considerable progress has been made to improve flood
management in the Central Valley, the vast region still faces
significant flood risk. … It has been estimated that
California needs to spend at least $34 billion to upgrade dams,
levees, and other flood management infrastructure.
Accomplishing these upgrades within 25 years would mean
spending $1.4 billion per year—roughly twice the current level
These changes will be substantial, multi-faceted, and often
rapid. Some changes will be irreversible. Many changes are
inevitable. Some will say today’s Delta is doomed. It will be
important for California to develop a scientific program that
can help guide difficult policy and management discussions and
decision-making through these challenges.
Atmospheric rivers are long, narrow bands of moisture that
descend from the tropics to higher latitudes like from Hawaii
to California. They used to be referred to mostly as a
pineapple express. … A study by researchers at the Scripps
Institution of Oceanography suggests that one of these events
could cause catastrophic damage to California and its economy
and thus the nation’s economy.
Despite efforts over decades, the Delta’s delicate ecosystem
and species continue to decline. … At the 2019 ACWA Fall
Conference, Vice Chair of the State Water Board DeDe D’Adamo,
Department of Water Resources Director Karla Nemeth, and Delta
Stewardship Council Susan Tatayon gave their thoughts on moving
forward in the Delta in this panel discussion moderated by the
Public Policy Institute of California Water Policy Director
The low-lying island, as well as neighboring Yerba Buena
island, are also the site of a multibillion-dollar neighborhood
development. The project calls for 8,000 new homes and condos
that could house more than 20,000 people, 500 new hotel rooms,
and over 550,000 square feet of commercial space. But how will
climate change affect these plans?
Site preparation activity for upcoming levee improvements along
the Sacramento River east levee will begin this week, kicking
off a five-year U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project to upgrade
levees throughout the Sacramento region and widen the
Despite efforts over decades, the Delta’s delicate ecosystem
and species continue to decline. … At the 2019 ACWA Fall
Conference, Vice Chair of the State Water Board DeDe D’Adamo,
Department of Water Resources Director Karla Nemeth, and Delta
Stewardship Council Susan Tatayon gave their thoughts on moving
forward in the Delta in this panel discussion moderated by the
Public Policy Institute of California Water Policy Director
During the 2019 Flood Prevention Authority Legislative
Conference, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers presented a
cost-benefit analysis in support of what is estimated to be
about a $394 million project, an effort which would reduce
significant flood risk to the city of Watsonville, Pajaro in
Monterey County and adjacent agricultural areas…
We’ve heard this about earthquakes – it’s not a matter of if
but when the big one will hit. Well, some researchers also say
it’s a pretty similar situation for a major flood in the area.
A research project currently being undertaken at SoCal and
NorCal UC campuses is looking at how flooding could impact the
area, including socioeconomic issues.
There were questions about the gates that release the water
from Lake Oroville, even before the spillways broke up in
February 2017. Those questions never really got answered. The
focus was on fixing the obvious damage. We could get around to
talking about the gates after that. Maybe.
They’re like a continuous conga line of moisture streaming
across the ocean without interruption until they encounter an
obstacle such as the coast ranges in California. These
obstacles force the atmospheric river to start shedding its
burden of moisture.
Known as Forecast-Informed Reservoir Operations (FIRO), the
approach centers on using the latest forecast technology to
plan for the arrival of atmospheric rivers. Those are the
torrents of moisture in the sky that barrel into California
from the Pacific Ocean. Atmospheric rivers are critical to the
state’s water supply, accounting for as much as half of its
annual precipitation. But they can also cause catastrophic
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.
Through financial support from various grant funding, CDFA is
implementing a five-phase process for nutria eradication that
consists of survey, knockdown, mop-up, verification, and
surveillance. CDFW staff have been working the landscape by
dividing areas into 40-acre grids to ensure that nothing is
State transportation crews are wrapping up paving and drainage
improvement work along Highway 37 ahead of winter rains in an
attempt to avert flooding, which in two of the past three years
led to multiday closures of the critical North Bay commuter
The start of work on the restoration of the Bel Marin Keys
wetlands is another example of efforts to bring back the miles
of wetlands that, over the past century, have been lost to
development, other encroachments and years of sedimentation
The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is hitched to so many things.
Our estuary is a critical habitat for fish and wildlife, home
to millions of people, and the hub of our state’s water
delivery system. From the Sierra Nevada to the mouth of the San
Francisco Bay, what happens in one part of the Delta watershed
affects the entire estuary.
A living shoreline is an alternative to ‘hard’ shoreline
stabilization methods like rip rap or seawalls, and can provide
numerous benefits such as nutrient pollution remediation,
habitat, and buffering of shorelines from storm erosion and sea
level rise. … At the 2019 State of the Estuary conference,
Marilyn Latta from the Coastal Consevancy and Katharyn Boyer
from San Francisco State University gave a presentation on
living shoreline projects in the San Francisco Bay.
On Thursday, the East Bay city of Newark will consider
approving 469 single family homes and 2,739 parking spaces at
the edge of the San Francisco Bay shoreline, on a 430-acre
parcel where conservation groups and state and federal agencies
have for decades hoped to restore wetlands. … The proposal
illustrates one way even straightforward and widely agreed-upon
regional climate solutions can fall apart at the local level…
While breaking this levee would seem like a catastrophe, state
and federal agencies intend to do just that. The purpose is not
to unleash some biblical, punishing flood, but rather to allow
nature to reclaim nearly 1,600 acres of wetland habitat.
Woodland city officials are continuing to build the case for
Cache Creek flood control, recently approving $900,000 for
another study that could be yet another downpayment on a
multi-million dollar project ultimately paid for by federal,
state and local governments.
San Marcos will start construction of its Creek District this
year, with a $100 million plan to reduce flooding and improve
habitat and traffic flow, officials said at a public forum
earlier this week.
In order to take care of environmental concerns and maintain
our facilities in a safe and effective manner, we have
identified about 900 encroachments on public lands managed by
Valley Water that require resolution. … Valley Water has
implemented a new process to resolve these encroachments by
working with our community.
Elizabeth Castillo looks on as her daughter Reynata plays with
children at a playground near the Los Angeles River in Long
Beach, California, in mid-October, hoping one day the river
will be clean enough to kayak on. … In the last half-century,
the LA River served primarily as flood control infrastructure,
but open space and wildlife advocates fomented a movement to
make it wild and accessible to all.
The White House has begun reviewing a plan to change the way it
issues environmental permits for infrastructure projects. If
the proposal is finalized, it could speed up National
Environmental Policy Act reviews for roads, bridges, ports,
pipelines, power lines, Internet trunks, and water systems.
Just how far will Gov. Gavin Newsom go in his high-profile
fight with the Trump administration over environmental
protections? The next few months will provide an answer, as
Newsom is forced to take a stand on Trump rollbacks in a
long-contested battleground — the Northern California Delta
that helps supply more than half the state’s population with
drinking water and fills irrigation canals on millions of acres
Russian River communities impacted by the 2019 flood may soon
see some help, as a budget trailer bill signed last week by
Gov. Gavin Newsom promises $1.5 million to the area that
suffered 100 landslides and slipouts and faces at least $155
million in damage.
The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta was once one of the lushest
marshlands in the state. The peat-rich soil made it an ideal
place for some of the state’s first farms to pop up. Today,
scientists are hacking their way through thick brush to see if
restoring these marshes is a way to reduce carbon dioxide in
One of the most recent threats to California’s environment has
webbed feet, white whiskers, shaggy fur and orange buck teeth
that could be mistaken for carrots. … The swamp rodents,
called nutria, are setting off alarms in California.
A rookie California lawmaker plans to haul a 20-pound rodent
carcass into Congress on Tuesday to press his colleagues for
money to fight an invasive species wreaking havoc on his
district. Rep. Josh Harder, D-Turlock, hopes a hearing on his
bill will convince his colleagues that funding to stop invasive
nutria in California’s Central Valley is sorely needed …
At least 85 different federal laws and regulations affecting
California have been weakened or undermined by the Trump
administration since January 2017. … That’s why I, along with
many proponents, believe that Senate Bill 1 would safeguard our
Before all those thousands of miles of levees went in, the
Central Valley had one of the West Coast’s largest salmon runs,
with a million or more of these mighty fish returning each
year. A big reason for the salmon’s suc-cess was that the
valley was among the most extensive floodplains in the world.
It appears that Woodland is now in the “advancement” stage with
the Army Corps of Engineers willing to work on a plan for
longterm flood protection along the city’s northeast side.
However, the effort could just as quickly be reversed,
according to members of the City Council, if they don’t get
farmers on board with their efforts.
The Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta has more non-native species
than native ones, and its estuary is considered the most
invaded in the world. We talked to Jim Cloern—an emeritus
scientist with the US Geological Survey and an adjunct fellow
at the PPIC Water Policy Center—about this challenge.
Something is amiss on Sherman Island, a whale-shaped swath of
farm and grazing land at the confluence of the Sacramento and
San Joaquin rivers. If you don’t know what ails the place, it
might be hard to pinpoint the problem.
There’s a lot to like about the Bay Area’s efforts to prepare
for sea level rise: the collaborative efforts, the detailed
studies and, laudably, the voters who are willing to tax
themselves with an eye to future needs. But if the long-term
threat is as grim as scientific projections indicate, local
experts say the region needs to respond with increased urgency
— an urgency that is at odds with the Bay Area’s often
cumbersome decision-making processes.
At the Association of California Water Agencies‘ spring
conference, a panel of lawyers covered the basics of the legal
framework for the Delta. The panel was billed as ‘All the
Acronyms You Need to Know”, but no 1.5 hour panel discussion
could possibly cover all that. However, the panel did a good
job of hitting the main ones and highlighting current issues.
There’s no certain answer as to how the nutria population
re-emerged after being declared eradicated in California
decades ago but the population is spreading and causing serious
concern. The Department of Fish and Wildlife was recently
awarded $10 million to wipe out the large, invasive rodents and
that effort is now well underway.
In 2015, the Board of Supervisors gave initial approval to a
$58 million shoreline protection program to protect SFO from
sea-level rise. But on Wednesday, the board’s Budget and
Finance Committee approved an updated program that will now
cost $587.1 million. City officials attributed the increase to
new sea-level rise estimates and guidelines issued by the State
A Sacramento Bee investigation found high levels of E. coli
bacteria — a sign of fecal contamination — along the lower
stretch of the American, where homeless camps line the banks,
residents walk their dogs, and where thousands of swimmers dip
into the water to escape Sacramento’s summer heat.
We applaud Gov. Gavin Newsom’s efforts in leading discussions
with the United States Department of the Interior, public water
agencies and environmental groups to craft voluntary agreements
that will restore the ecological health of the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta while providing California with clean, reliable
As the old saying goes, if you can’t go through something, go
around it. And at an estimated cost of $357 million, the Friant
Water Authority is contemplating a 30-mile parallel canal to
circumvent the portion of the Friant Kern Canal that has been
negatively affected by subsidence.
Last week, the Delta Stewardship Council held a public hearing
to review proposed changes to how spending decisions on the
maintenance of Delta levees are made, and the plan — known as
the Delta Levee Investment Strategy — has drawn criticism from
After decades of costly floods — and 65 years after Congress
first approved it — construction on Santa Clara Valley Water
District’s flood control project along the Upper Llagas Creek,
is finally happening.
Nutria, a giant invasive rodent originally from South America,
might be the size of a beagle, but unlike a beagle you can’t
keep them in your home. The California Fish and Game Commission
is looking to correct a gap in the law that restricts what pets
may lawfully be owned by including nutria among the list.
Restoration of nearly 1,600 acres of wetlands near Bel Marin
Keys is set to begin this year after the approval of $20
million in funding on Thursday. The state Coastal Conservancy
voted unanimously during its meeting in Sausalito on Thursday
to allocate the money to begin the first phase of
A panel of experts discuss how reactivating the floodplains can
provide habitat and food for native fish and for migrating
birds, and highlights the many projects and opportunities in
the Sacramento Valley.
More than 60 elected officials and environmental and community
groups throughout the Bay Area are urging Redwood City
officials to reject proposals to develop the Cargill salt ponds
and rather have them restored as wetlands.
Ariel Rubissow Okamoto, the editor in chief of Estuary Magazine
and long-time Bay Area science writer, talks about the
resiliency of the largest estuary on the West Coast, the
challenges facing the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta, and the
potential impacts of climate change and sea-level rise on the
San Francisco Bay.
California’s rivers and streams have experienced enormous
changes over the past 150 years, and a warming climate brings
new challenges. We talked to Ted Grantham—a river scientist at
UC Berkeley and a member of the PPIC Water Policy Center
research network—about the state of the state’s rivers.
The study, published Wednesday in the scientific journal PLOS
One, documented dramatic decreases in wetland habitat around
San Francisco Bay, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and
nearly 450 other bays, lagoons, river deltas and coastal creek
mouths throughout the West.
With the last drought in the rearview and the next one
inevitable, the damaging run on groundwater has state water
agencies and lawmakers mulling whether to spend hundreds of
millions to patch up a federally owned canal. But critics say
doing so would amount to a clear bailout for the state’s
Marin residents living in the Ross Valley will see a 3%
increase in the annual stormwater drainage fee to finance flood
control projects. … Following the 3% increase, homeowners
will be paying $149.28 annually. The Ross Valley has been
dogged by flooding over the past century.
Rep. Josh Harder has focused much of his first year in office
on local issues such as water storage and the effects of almond
tariffs on Central Valley farmers. Now he is training his
attention on the nutria, a semi-aquatic rodent that has drawn
the ire of environmentalists, farmers and local officials
San Joaquin County has filed a lawsuit in Superior Court asking
the state Department of Water Resources to abide by local
drilling permit requirements to protect wildlife and water
quality in accordance with California law.
California’s biggest river—the Sacramento—needs a lot of room
to spread in big water years. A floodplain project called the
Yolo Bypass allows it to flood naturally, while also providing
habitat for waterbirds, fish, and other aquatic species. We
talked to Ted Sommer, lead scientist for the Department of
Water Resources (DWR), about this versatile landscape.
Sacramento remains one of the two most flood-prone cities in
the nation along with New Orleans, according to experts. Now
the River City faces a new water threat: homeless people
setting up camp on—and digging into—the 1,100 miles of earthen
levees that Sacramento and surrounding areas count on to
protect them from devastation.
Most people would not associate flood insurance with the
protection of endangered species. But over the past decade, the
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been the target
of multiple lawsuits alleging that the agency has violated the
Endangered Species Act by not considering the impacts of its
flood insurance program on endangered species and their
California is overdue for a mega-storm capable of drowning
coastal areas in 20ft (6m) of water at any moment. Experts are
preparing contingencies for wet weather so extreme it might
tear open a 300-mile-wide ocean across the US West coast. …
The devastation of such flooding could match the severity of
“big San Andreas earthquakes”, according to the USGS.
The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is arguably the most
extensively studied and monitored ecosystem in the world. This
has generated mountains of data on everything from the
locations of the smallest fish to the water quality conditions
of the largest reservoir. Knowing where to access the most
up-to-date information can be a real challenge, but fortunately
several online dashboards can help
The community wanted to create flood relief for the people of
Hamilton City; The Nature Conservancy wanted to find a way to
restore native habitat. Area farmers wanted to reduce damages
from flows that scoured their property along the edge of the
river. The Hamilton City Flood Damage Reduction and Ecosystem
Restoration project was able to address these problems with one
River towns can start by restricting floodplain development so
that people and property will not be in harm’s way. This will
create space for rivers to spill over in flood season, reducing
risks downstream. Proposals to raise and improve levees should
be required to take climate change and related flooding risks
A growing menace in the form of 15-pound swamp rodents is
threatening Delta waterways, and the state is throwing money,
hunting dogs and birth control at the invasive pests which have
the potential to destroy crops and wetlands.
While elected officials in Sacramento work to secure funding to
ensure that the levees along the San Joaquin River are
reinforced to be able to withstand a 200-year flood, the City
of Lathrop has been performing the work necessary to continue
development within the floodplain while that work is completed.
… The city has received financial backing from a number of
developers that don’t want to see development stop until the
costly repairs are mad.
This tour travels deep into California’s water hub and traverses the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a 720,000-acre network of islands and canals that supports the state’s water system and is California’s most crucial water and ecological resource. The tour will make its way to San Francisco Bay and includes a ferry ride.
In order to address the impacts of climate change on the
state’s water resources, the Department of Water Resources
(DWR) has been developing its own comprehensive Climate Action
Plan to guide how DWR is and will continue to address climate
change for programs, projects, and activities over which it has
Although flooding hasn’t occurred in Clarksburg since the
construction of the levee system in the early 1900s, the
community is considered a moderate to high hazard flood area,
according to a county report. For that reason, a flood risk
reduction feasibility study has been prepared for the town
similar to those conducted for Yolo and Knights Landing with
funds from the California Department of Water Resources.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today was
awarded $8.5 million in funding over three years by the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy to expand its nutria
A federal judge in San Francisco ruled Wednesday to block the
Federal Emergency Management Agency from moving forward with
its plans to offer flood insurance to developers and property
owners in 100-year flood zones in California, finding that the
agency failed to consider effects development might have on
endangered wildlife in those areas.
In response to a story that aired Thursday night on CBS13, the
City of Sacramento is now responding and creating a task force
to combat a growing public safety concern. Homeless campers are
carving into levees that protect Sacramento from flooding, a
break in the levee could be devastating.
When people think of natural disasters in California, they
usually think of earthquakes, drought or wildfire. But the
worst disaster to ever hit the Golden State was the Great Flood
of 1862. When people of European descent first arrived in
California, the native people told them tales of great deluges
in which the rivers overran their banks and large areas of land
were inundated. The newcomers paid little heed to these
stories, and often settled in low-lying areas with easy access
to water sources.
Failing power lines and crumbling roads are just some of the
major issues highlighted in the American Society of Civil
Engineers’ 2019 report card. It’s an analysis that comes out
every six years, grading 17 different areas of infrastructure
including waterways, aviation and schools.
For centuries, the Delta was a dynamic and rich ecosystem of
tidal wetlands, riparian forests, and vast seasonal
floodplains. But about 98 percent of the native habitat
disappeared after the Gold Rush and a population boom across
the Golden State.
The latest declaration will provide aid to local governments
from the state’s Office of Emergency Services and directs
Caltrans to request federal assistance. In addition to Santa
Cruz County, the declaration will affect Butte, Colusa, Del
Norte, Mariposa, Napa, Solano and Tuolumne counties.
For the millions of Californians who live and work far from the
Delta, it can be easy to overlook the splendor of the largest
estuary in western North America. Whether you are one mile or
hundreds of miles from the Delta, however, all Californians
have a stake in the survival and preservation of this fragile,
dynamic ecosystem that is also the keystone of the state’s
water supply system.
It’s not clear how much water this year’s snowpack will
produce, but the record snowpack in 2017 produced about one
million acre feet of water. That’s too much for a funnel only
about one-third that size. That means that water managers have
to figure out where to put the excess water as it melts off the
mountains. And the problem becomes potentially worse if a warm
streak hits and melts the snow fast
Chris Orrock of the California Department of Water Resources
joins the podcast to chat with John Howard and Tim Foster about
what this wealth of snow means for California’s water reserves
and flood dangers, and the implications for wildfires later in
In an era of high population growth and sprawling urban and
wildland development, fire and flood disaster officials have to
plan in advance for post-fire problems… One strategy
California and Colorado are working on is to build political
alliances that combine forestry, water and land issues so that
lawmakers at the state and even the federal level are provided
with a more powerful, holistic view of the problems.
It worked. Oroville Dam’s main flood-control spillway reopened
for business Tuesday morning, releasing a gentle sheet of water
into the Feather River for the first time since the 2017 crisis
that sent 188,000 people fleeing for their lives. … It was a
far cry from the scene two years ago, when the massive sinkhole
in the spillway turned water releases into an angry, boiling
California received some good news on Tuesday for the state’s
water supply: The Sierra Nevada snowpack is well above normal,
at 162 percent of average. This amount of snow is thanks to the
more than 30 “atmospheric rivers” that brought storms this
winter and spring. Chris Orrock, with the California Department
of Water Resources, says … this is the fourth largest amount
of snow in recorded history.
One month after destructive flooding tore through Sonoma
County, residents are waiting for the state to decide if it
will ask the federal government for a disaster declaration — a
move that they say can bring them much-needed financial aid.
Five months after voters approved a bond measure to protect the
waterfront from earthquakes and flooding from sea-level rise,
San Francisco plans to start using the first batch of funds.
Next week, The City is expected to introduce to the Board of
Supervisors for approval a proposal to use $50 million of the
$425 million Embarcadero Seawall Earthquake Safety general
obligation bond approved by more than 80 percent of the voters
This may be the bleakest shoreline in the Bay Area, and it
isn’t just the industrial infrastructure that gives character
to this place. Floating trash has collected along the docks,
and the waters are contaminated by the loading and unloading of
vast amounts of fossil fuels. A sign posted to a piling warns
fishers not to eat anything they catch here.
On our Bay-Delta Tour June 5-7, participants will hear from a
diverse group of experts including water managers,
environmentalists, farmers, engineers and scientists who will
offer various perspectives on a proposed tunnel project that
would carry water beneath the Delta, efforts to revitalize the
Delta and risks that threaten its delicate ecological balance.
Any new path on California water must bring Delta community and
fishing interests to the table. We have solutions to offer. We
live with the impacts of state water management decisions from
loss of recreation to degradation of water quality to
collapsing fisheries. For example, how can new and improved
technology be employed to track real time management of
Chinook spawned here historically, but in 1957 Putah Creek was
dammed near Winters to divert water for Solano County. After
that, hardly any salmon made their way up the creek. Then a
lawsuit in the 1990s — and resulting restoration project —
finally gave the fish what they needed to return after all
A “landmark” initiative aimed at restoring Carmel River
floodplain habitat and helping reduce flood risks for homes and
businesses along the lower part of the river and lagoon has
reached a key phase with the release of its environmental
FEMA said that a wide range of pre-existing problems
contributed to the deterioration of both the upper and lower
sections of the massive concrete spillway. The agency argues
that federal law, regulations and policy restrict payments only
to work needed to fix damage stemming from a declared disaster.
Climate advocates say an overhaul of the nation’s flood
insurance program being unveiled by the Trump administration
will spur communities around the country to better plan for
extreme weather, but could drive up costs for some homeowners.
… It will tie premiums to the actual flood risk facing
individual homes nationwide starting in October 2020. The
current system sets prices based largely on whether a home is
inside or outside of the 100-year flood plain.
With rising tides threatening to submerge the Palo Alto
Baylands by mid-century, city officials agreed on Monday
they need to explore new barriers — both physical and
legislative — to protect coastal area from sea level rise.
These measures will be approved as part of a new Sea Level Rise
Implementation Plan, a document that Public Works staff are in
the process of putting together and that could have significant
ramification for properties around the Baylands.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has been battling the
destructive Nutria for two years. State biologists believe it
will be another three years before they win the war against the
pesky rodent. The nutria is considered a triple threat to
Valley wetlands, agriculture and water delivery systems.
Dozens of computer coding teams from around San Joaquin County
were tasked to create an app in roughly seven hours. The issue:
following the destruction caused by the malfunction of the
Oroville Dam in February 2017 and the evacuation of more than
180,000 people, could there be an app that can track dam
leakage, seismic activity and other structural impacts and
communicate with the appropriate individuals to help deter
By allocating $1 million last week toward a creek restoration
project set to rejuvenate threatened and endangered species and
reduce flooding in Pescadero, county officials locked in
funding needed to begin a dredging effort experts expect will
give the Butano Creek a chance to reset.
When a wild river floods, water and sediment spills over its
banks onto adjacent land, it builds up a natural floodplain.
Floodplains allow a river’s high flows to spread out and slow
down, forming temporary reservoirs that pool over the rainy
season. That means more water percolating down into underlying
aquifers … and less floodwaters barreling toward cities.
The statewide snowpack has reached 160 percent of its annual
year-to-date average and the snow-covered peaks of the Sierra
Nevada can be seen from Highway 198. … But, if you think
that’s a lot of rain, think again. Sunday marks the 113th
anniversary of the 1906 flood, which filled Visalia’s downtown
streets with about a foot of water. The water didn’t dissipate
for 10 days.
They are a semiaquatic South American rodent a bit smaller than
a beaver. Females can give birth three times a year and have up
to 12 babies each litter. They are really good at tearing up
crops, burrowing tunnels into levees, and other destructive
behavior that is tough on farmers. And they’ve been discovered
in California’s San Joaquin Valley, a major food-producing
Recent rains have left the San Joaquin Valley’s reservoirs in
better shape, but groundwater depletion and the resulting
ground subsidence continue to beset farmers and water managers.
What will this year hold? … Your best opportunity to
understand the challenges and opportunities of this vital
resource in the nation’s breadbasket is to join us on our
Central Valley Tour April 3-5.
A bill from Sen. Bill Dodd that would increase legislative
oversight of the controversial Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
WaterFix project and allow for more public scrutiny has cleared
its first committee hurdle. The action comes less than a month
after Gov. Gavin Newsom said he wants to scale back the project
proposed by former Gov. Jerry Brown to a single tunnel.
In the midst of the wet winter storms bringing rain and snow to
California this year, you might not expect drought preparations
to be among the state’s current priorities. And yet, they need
to be. In this post, I’ll explore why to set the stage for a
blog series that explores what the state can do to prepare for
the more frequent and intense droughts we expect in
California’s future. The series draws on work my colleagues and
I did for California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment.
It’s not often that communities in California and Louisiana
face similar water challenges. California is better known for
having too little water and Louisiana too much – both
challenges exacerbated by climate change. But record-setting
wet winter weather led both states last week to release
significant amounts of water from reservoirs and rivers to
prevent flooding, underscoring the need for new approaches to
build climate-resilient communities across the country.
The Sacramento Valley’s flood management system is a good
example where a portfolio of actions has greatly reduced flood
damages and deaths, with relatively little management expense
and attention in a highly flood-prone region. This case also
illustrates how the many individual flood management options
presented in the table can be assembled into a diversified
cost-effective strategy involving the many local, state, and
federal parties concerned with floods.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has issued a $35 million
contract to continue the Sutter Basin Project – strengthening a
stretch of Sutter County levees. The project will allow repairs
to continue on approximately five more miles of the Feather
River west levee between Tudor Road and Cypress Avenue in south
Sutter County, according to a press release from the corps.
A long battle over development of the Cargill salt ponds in
Redwood City may soon return after the EPA declared the site
exempt from the federal Clean Water Act — causing concern by
environmentalists and the city’s mayor. The Environmental
Protection Agency announced its decision earlier this month,
effectively removing one of several barriers to development of
the 1,400-acre Bayside property.
A “major problem” in southeast Tulare County forced hundreds of
people out of their homes and endangered thousands of animals.
… Tulare County Sheriff’s Department was sent scrambling to
notify residents in the area of Strathmore that Frazier Creek
Canal spilled over and water levels were rising. Frazier Creek
is directly linked to the Friant-Kern Canal. … Friant-Kern
Water Authority officials later determined the flooding wasn’t
caused by “overtopping” of the Friant-Kern Canal’s banks. The
issue was drainage from Frazier Creek.
For a region so crucial to the growth of California as we know
it today, you might think there would be libraries full of
books about the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. And yet, as UC
Merced scholar Gregg Camfield wrote several years ago, the most
obvious thing about the literature of the Delta “is how little
there is.” Advocates of the largest estuary on the west coast
of the Americas are trying to collect those scattered bits and
pieces in a new anthology of the Delta.
We love our Russian River for its eternal beauty, its nurturing
forces, its quenching properties, its recreation and play and
its renewing spirits. We love our river — except when we don’t.
And right now we are distraught over the destruction its
breached muddy torrents visited upon us yet again.
Swollen rivers and creeks fed by atmospheric-river storms
caused flooding with both short-term and long-term impacts for
California farmers. Mary Ann Renner, a dairy farmer in the
Humboldt County town of Ferndale, said the flood from the Eel
River was not the worst she’s seen—but was close.
The state Department of Water Resources announced that releases
from the powerplant were being increased from 1,750 cubic feet
per second to 5,000 cfs. Ten-day projections show the lake
reaching 835 feet on March 14, according to DWR. The department
has said it does not anticipate that it will utilize the
rebuilt Oroville Dam spillway anytime soon; however, crews have
been making preparations in case its use becomes necessary. The
spillway becomes usable once water reaches its gates at 813
feet, which should happen Tuesday morning.
The dramatic shift from dry to wet this winter hints at what’s
to come. Scientists predict that California’s total
precipitation will remain close to constant in the future, but
it will fall in a shorter window of time, with more of it as
rain. The state will also experience greater variability—more
very wet and more very dry years. These findings highlight the
need to capture rainfall and improve aging infrastructure.
Here’s what to expect from California’s wet seasons, now and in
But the river remains an unpredictable force, one that could
give rise to even more destructive floods in an era of
increasingly extreme weather, experts say. … County
Supervisor Lynda Hopkins has her sights on the opportunities to
tame floodwaters in the river’s middle reaches, starting near
Windsor and upstream, where it broadens and meanders more
freely in a floodplain less constricted by roads and other
Four new voting members, each appointed by representatives of
the Delta region, would be added to the Delta Stewardship
Council if a bill authored by Assemblyman Jim Frazier becomes
law. … Frazier introduced Assembly Bill 1194 this week. It
would increase the voting membership of the council to 11
State Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) said Senate Bill 559,
will “help secure California’s water supply by investing $400
million toward restoring lost (delivery) capacity on the
Friant-Kern Canal, one of the San Joaquin Valley’s most
critical water delivery facilities.” … The $400 million would
be appropriated from the state general fund to the Department
of Water Resources to administer the repairs.
A Northern California river flooded 2,000 homes, businesses and
other buildings and left two communities virtual islands after
days of stormy weather, officials said Wednesday. The towns of
Guerneville and Monte Rio were hardest hit by water pouring
from the Russian River, which topped 46 feet (13 meters) late
Wednesday night. It hadn’t reached that level for 25 years and
wasn’t expected to recede again until late Thursday night.
The southern Sierra Nevada is expected to see a pair of storm
systems in the coming days that could create “significant
flooding” over several burn scars in the area, according to
weather officials. … Next week’s storm, which is expected to
hit the area midweek, is the primary source of concern. “That
storm could bring between 2 and 5 inches of rain,” said Kevin
Durfee, meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “If
those rain amounts do materialize, we could be looking at some
significant flooding over the burn scars, and rising water
levels in rivers and streams.”
The Russian River has surpassed flood levels after an
extraordinary 48 hours of rainfall, and by Wednesday morning
the waters had blocked all roadways into and out of the town of
Guerneville. By 6 a.m., all routes out of the 4,500-person town
of Guerneville were blocked by the rising water, which was
creeping closer to 41 feet — nine more than the flood level of
32 feet — with an additional five feet expected.
If you stand on a fragile levee of the Sacramento River these
days and watch the chocolate brown water rushing toward the
delta only a few feet under your boots, one can’t help but
wonder why the state and federal governments aren’t capturing
more of this precious resource. Why is all but a tiny fraction
heading out to sea?
Rains over the past several weeks have caused erosion to a
recently improved portion of levee along the east side of the
Feather River and protecting Marysville. But officials say the
damage is superficial and doesn’t pose a threat to public
One week after an atmospheric river storm pounded Northern
California, causing flooding, mudslides and traffic headaches,
another one appears to be forming in the Pacific and is set to
arrive early next week. Computer models show the storm
hitting Monday or Tuesday, with the North Bay and parts of
California farther north taking the brunt, although that could
change, experts say.
February storms have almost eliminated drought conditions from
California. The U.S. Drought Monitor said Thursday that
just over 67 percent of the state is totally free of any level
of dryness. Just under 30 percent is classified as abnormally
dry, and less than 4 percent remains in either moderate or
Although it might sound absurd to those who still recall five
years of withering drought and mandatory water restrictions,
researchers and engineers warn that California may be due for
rain of biblical proportions — or what experts call an
ARkStorm. … In heavily populated areas of the Los
Angeles Basin, epic runoff from the San Gabriel Mountains could
rapidly overwhelm a flood control dam on the San Gabriel river
and unleash floodwaters from Pico Rivera to Long Beach, says a
recent analysis by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The wet weather broke a daily rainfall record in Sacramento,
with 1.6 inches of rain recorded at the Sacramento Executive
Airport over 24 hours. But the state’s network of flood-control
dams and levees appeared to handle the deluge without major
problems. The National Weather Service issued a flood
warning Wednesday morning for the Sacramento Valley, and it was
expected to remain in place until 6 p.m. Thursday as heavy and
moderate rainfall was forecast to continue through Thursday.
Our floodplain reforestation projects are biodiversity hotspots
and climate-protection powerhouses that cost far less than
old-fashioned gray infrastructure of levees, dams and
reservoirs. They provide highly-effective flood safety by
strategically spreading floodwater. Floodplain forests combat
the effects of drought by recharging groundwater and increasing
A powerful “atmospheric river” storm is expected to pummel
Northern California starting Tuesday night and deliver heavy
rain, gusty winds, downed trees, power outages and rough
driving conditions Wednesday and Thursday. … The storm
should bring up to 5 feet of new snow in the Sierra Nevada,
forecasters said. The National Weather Service announced
flash-flood and high-wind warnings for the Bay Area, along with
Santa Cruz and Monterey counties.
California’s San Joaquin River Delta is in danger of being
overrun by voracious beagle-sized rodents. The state has a plan
to deal with them, but it’s going to take a lot of time and
money. Nutria, a large South American rodent, have become an
invasive species in several states, including Louisiana,
Maryland and Oregon.
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 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.
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.
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.
Land subsidence from overpumping of San Joaquin Valley
groundwater sank portions of the Friant-Kern Canal, the
152-mile conduit that conveys water from the San Joaquin River
to farms that help fuel a multibillion-dollar agricultural
economy. A plan to fix it helped sink the $8.8 billion
Proposition 3 bond measure last November. Now San Joaquin
Valley water managers are trying to figure out another way to
restore the canal, not only to keep farmers farming, but to aid
the valley’s overtaxed groundwater aquifers. By Gary
Pitzer in Western Water.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
Merced County sweet potato farmer Stan Silva hadn’t even heard
the word “nutria” until a few months ago. He’s still never seen
one, but he’s worried about the damage these 20-pound rodents
with big orange buck teeth could do in California if they’re
not eradicated. “It would be devastating,” Silva says. “They
can basically ruin the ag industry here — they get in your
fields, burrow into your canal ways, your waterways.” They can
also tear up crops and levees, making the state’s water
infrastructure more vulnerable.
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.
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.
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.