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
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
At the confluence of the San Joaquin and Tuolumne rivers, a few
miles west of Modesto, work crews removed or broke several
miles of levee last spring and replanted the land with tens of
thousands of native sapling trees and shrubs. It’s part
of a growing emphasis on reconnecting floodplains to
rivers so they can absorb floodwaters. This shift in
methodology marks a U-turn from past reliance on levees to
protect cities and towns.
In February, following a string of severe natural
disasters in 2017, Congress provided a record $16 billion for
disaster mitigation — building better defenses against
hurricanes, floods and other catastrophes. Eleven months later,
the Trump administration has yet to issue rules telling states
how to apply for the money.
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.
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.
When rivers flood now in the United States, the first towns to
get hit are the unprotected ones right by the river. The last
to go, if they flood at all, are the privileged few behind
strong levees. While levees mostly are associated with large,
low-lying cities such as New Orleans, a majority of the
nation’s Corps-managed levees protect much smaller communities,
rural farm towns and suburbs such as Valley Park [Missouri].
A steady stream of trucks has started carrying dirt to what
will be a new levee to protect Hamilton City. The trucks
started rolling Monday, carrying dirt from a pile at the north
end of Canal Road that is left from the excavation of the
The West Sacramento City Council voted 4-1 last month to begin
a process that would convert an independent district in charge
of levee management into a subsidiary of West Sacramento, and
allow the council to replace the district’s board of directors
with appointees or the council members themselves. Reclamation
District 900 has operated independently since 1911, managing
13.6 miles of levees that provide flood protection along the
The Army Corps of Engineers announced Monday that the
additional money would be available to the Hamilton City Flood
Damage Reduction and Ecosystem Restoration Project in the
current fiscal year. … It is the first in the
nation being constructed under the Corps’ guidelines to develop
projects that include both flood risk reduction and ecosystem
We traveled deep into California’s
water hub and traverse 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 made its way to San Francisco Bay,
and included a ferry ride.
Sometime after Tim Pelican arrived at work Monday, a farmer
stopped by to deliver a package to San Joaquin County’s
agricultural commissioner. The farmer’s package contained a
dead nutria, a 2½–foot-long, 20-pound beast that looks like a
beaver but is smaller and has a round, ratlike tail and white
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
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.
Modifications were made to construction plans for an upcoming
phase of the Marysville Ring Levee project. … The Marysville
Levee Commission, the Central Valley Flood Protection Board and
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are proposing changes to their
original plans for an area located along the existing levee to
the southwest of Marysville, between the Fifth Street Bridge
and E Street Bridge.
The view from Don Murphy’s expansive backyard is breathtaking.
The Sacramento River rolls gently past as birds float in the
mid-winter fog. It is nearly silent, except for the infrequent
car driving along a delta road across the river. … Now a
fight is heating up over who should have access to that
Faced with a shortage of money and political support after
seven years of work, Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration is
working on a plan to scale back one of his key legacy projects,
a $17 billion proposal to build two massive tunnels under the
Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to make it easier to move
water from Northern California to the south.
The Sutter Butte Flood Control Agency got to work on emergency
levee repairs following last winter’s high waters and the
Oroville Dam evacuation. Seepage, boils, sink holes and water
erosion were signs of severe distress. The $28.5 million
project, mostly funded by the state, is geared up to complete
This tour traveled deep into California’s water hub and traversed
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 made its way to San Francisco Bay and
included a ferry ride.
Considering the events of this past winter and the problems
they posed to Yuba-Sutter levees, officials are confident the
improvements made over the past several months will withstand
the upcoming flood season.
California needs to spend another $100 million a year to keep
the state’s levee system sound, according to state flood
control experts. At a press conference marking flood
preparedness week Monday at a levee repair site near
Sacramento, Bill Edgar, president of the Central Valley Flood
Protection Board said the levees will need a $17 billion to $21
billion investment over the next 30 years to protect the seven
million Californians at flood risk.
Something monumental happened on August 25 in California
water management that received almost no media attention: It
became official policy to reconnect the state’s major rivers
with their floodplains. The action by the Central Valley
Flood Protection Board, an obscure panel appointed by the
governor, clears the way for the state to embrace projects that
allow floods to recharge groundwater. … The timing
coincides with two other major state programs.
After more than a century of building levees higher to hold
back its rivers, California took another step Friday toward a
flood-control policy that aims to give raging rivers more room
to spread out instead.
The heavy work is now underway on emergency repairs to the
nearly 3 miles of levee protecting the heart of Yuba City. The
Sutter Butte Flood Control Agency received federal approval
Tuesday night to proceed wth the work.
Work crews with heavy machinery started emergency repairs
Thursday to a levee that protects Yuba City, and was damaged by
high flows during the Oroville Dam spillway emergency. The
$28.5 million project will create a seepage cutoff wall and
rebuild 2.9-miles of levee along the west side of the Feather
River that protect 80,000 people.
The engineers who scrambled to prevent Delta farms from
flooding this year have long insisted that the levees
surrounding those low-lying islands are not as fragile as
they’re sometimes portrayed to be.
Construction work on a portion of the Marysville Ring Levee –
deemed by a federal agency as the “weakest link” in the city’s
levees – began earlier this month along Highway 70. …
John Nicoletti, a levee commissioner for Marysville, said the
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has assessed the ring levee and
found that Binney Junction is the city’s most vulnerable point.
The flooding is the result of more than a week of high
temperatures that have rapidly melted mountain snow, filling
Pine Flat Reservoir and prompting the Army Corps of Engineers
to send a surge of water into the Kings River to make room for
more runoff behind the dam. The river surge tested levees along
the Kings in a way some residents has never expected.
Water releases from Pine Flat Dam were ratcheted up Thursday as
federal officials worked to prevent the reservoir from
overtopping the dam. … Crews from Kings County and
the Kings River Conservation District responded to a
small breach in a levee on the south fork of the Kings River
between Grangville and Highway 198.
The Department of Water Resources invited downstream levee
maintaining agencies and county emergency operators to a
meeting in Oroville on Monday to discuss ways of improving
operations and planning for future emergency situations.
A worst-case sea level rise increase of 10 feet to 12 feet by
the year 2100 would utterly transform Stockton as we know it
today. Climate Central, a New Jersey-based climate science
nonprofit, recently published maps depicting what
this unlikely, yet still “plausible,” scenario might look
A five year survey released by the California Department of
Water Resources reveals half of the levees that guard
California cities from a major flood don’t meet modern
standards, and if a levee were to break in the wrong place, it
could cut off the drinking water supply to the Bay Area for
months or even years.
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
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
Two bills that would protect Delta levees and ratepayers were
passed in the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee on
Tuesday. Assemblyman Jim Frazier’s two bills — AB 732 and AB
791 — passed through their first hurdle.
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.
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
In the wake of a near disaster at Oroville Dam caused by heavy
runoff and a damaged spillway, the former chief of flood
operations for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said last week
it may be time to reconsider how the reservoir is operated to
avert such dilemmas.
When state water officials scaled back their mass dumping of
water from the damaged Oroville Dam this week, they knew the
riverbed below would dry up enough to allow the removal of vast
piles of debris from the fractured main spillway.
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.
Roberts Island hasn’t flooded severely since 1884. Yet here
they are, fourth-generation farmer Mike Robinson and his son,
Michael, spending their Friday night inspecting every inch of
the 15-mile levee from a truck crawling along at 5 mph.
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 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.
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.
While crews kept up emergency levee repairs on Tyler Island on
Tuesday, the San Joaquin River woke up and stretched her arms,
finally reaching flood stage after languishing for several
years as a weed-choked, drought-diminished trickle.
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.
A levee break reported Monday afternoon on the north bank of
the Mokelumne River levee near Lodi is being filled while crews
are sandbagging a second break on the river’s south bank, the
San Joaquin County Office of Emergency Services reports.
A small-island owner already threatened with a $4.6 million
fine by one state agency has been fined $772,000 by a state
commission for changing levees and waterways to create a
private kite surfing club for business executives.
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.
A project to rebuild the Wallace Weir, a century-old levee
northwest of Sacramento, could help both farmers and salmon.
Bringing together a coalition of unlikely allies, it promises a
more sophisticated approach to water management.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has the go-ahead to begin a
nine-part levee-improvement project for the Natomas Basin in
Sacramento. … The levees are part of a system that
diverts watershed runoff into the American River.
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.
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.
New research shows people living behind levees on flood plains
may have a greater risk of flood damage than if the levees had
not been built. The research examined the long-term flood
risk, probabilities of levee failures and resulting economic
losses along the Mississippi River, but the science applies to
levee systems worldwide.
In a milestone for San Francisco Bay restoration that also
raises questions about who should pay to protect property from
rising seas caused by climate change, a low-profile government
agency is expected to place a $12 annual parcel tax on the June
ballot in all nine Bay Area counties.
Officials of the city, county and Army Corps of Engineers
announced Friday that there will be $3.6 million in emergency
federal funding for flood prevention measures along the Los
Angeles River following the first El Niño-related storms this
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will begin work next week to
temporarily raise the banks along nearly three miles of the Los
Angeles River to improve flood protection during El Niño
storms, officials announced Friday, just days after the
watercourse roared to life during heavy rains.
Federal disaster officials warned Tuesday that El Niño-fueled
storms in California could inflict millions of dollars in
damage this winter — from mud-soaked homes to broken levees to
downed electrical lines — and said they’re taking steps to
minimize the toll.
The funds, from the Department of Water Resources’ Flood
Systems Repair Program, will allow the Sutter Butte Flood
Control Agency to improve a section of levee near Laurel Avenue
south of Star Bend, further expanding a multi-year project to
raise the flood protection in urban and rural areas to 200- and
100-year levels, respectively.
The plan by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers calls for
improving 23 miles of levees, from Mosher Slough in the north
to French Camp Slough in the south. This is intended to protect
much of Stockton from catastrophic floods worsened by climate
Flooding may seem a distant threat at the moment, but that’s
the subject of a meeting Monday as a state agency pushes
forward with a study of which Delta levees should be first in
line for future funding.
A massive new round of levee improvements is ahead for
Sacramento over the next decade, this time focusing primarily
on the Sacramento River south of downtown. … The U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers and Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency
unveiled the package of projects recently and are planning a
series of public meetings in April.
When the sun is shining and our rivers are low, we tend to
forget about levees. However, you can’t ignore the 1,100 miles
of levees in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. … This video
is a simulation of what would happen if a severe earthquake hit
the western Delta, causing widespread failure of levees.
The parties in a dispute over the fate of cultural materials
discovered in Sutter County have expressed a willingness to
solve the issue, but the path toward an agreement remains
uncertain and time is short.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the [United Auburn Indian
Community] UAIC disagree about the return of the items
uncovered last summer during the Feather River West Levee
project, even as both sides meet to resolve the issue.
More than a decade ago, an SN&R writer interviewed
Sacramento native Joan Didion about her then-new book, Where I
Was From. Part of the conversation involved the development of
Natomas, which Didion remembered fondly. “It was always so
beautiful,” she said, “even when it was underwater.”
When the last big December storm was at its peak, overflowing
storm drains and flash-flooding streets gave San Jose’s bayside
community of Alviso an all-too-real reminder that if not for
the levees and pumps, they’d be underwater.
Floodplains are extremely productive habitats for native fish
and birds, yet floodplains in California are cut off from
rivers by levees and development. … Recognizing these
constraints, reconciliation ecology encourages land and water
managers to re-engineer human-dominated landscapes to be more
hospitable for native species without significantly diminishing
human uses. California’s Yolo Bypass, an engineered floodplain
on the Sacramento River, is an excellent case study of this new
approach to native species conservation.
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.
This beautifully illustrated 24×36 inch poster,
suitable for framing and display in any office or classroom,
focuses on the theme of Delta sustainability.
The text, photos and graphics explain issues related to land
subsidence, levees and flooding, urbanization and fish and
wildlife protection. An inset map illustrates the tidal action
that increases the salinity of the Delta’s waterways. Development
of the map was funded by a grant from the California Bay-Delta
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
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.
The Delta, convergence of California’s two great water delivery
systems and major rivers is depicted in this 36×24 inch map. The
map graphically depicts the importance of the Delta — what it
is, where it is and how water flows through the area. The 2001
map now includes Delta waterways, pumping facilities and canals,
Los Vaqueros Reservoir, and many proposed projects and studies in
CALFED’s 2000 Record of Decision.
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
With the dual threats of obsolete levees and anticipated rising sea levels,
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.
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
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
These levees have been in place dating back to 1850, when
California first joined the union.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.