As the nation focuses on the disaster in southeast Texas, Californians are forced to consider our own water infrastructure.
Levees are vulnerable for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and throughout the Central Valley. Breaches could flood big swaths of farmland, not to mention housing developments constructed within the floodplain in recent decades. There was also the near-catastrophe from the damaged Oroville Dam spillway this past February. Nearly 200-thousand residents downstream of the dam had to be evacuated. And, just 20-years-ago, nine Californians were killed and more than a hundred-thousand evacuated after a weeklong series of El Niño storms.
Following the devastation from Harvey in Texas and an all-but-certain deluge coming to California, an arm of the state Department of Water Resources has released a flood protection plan for the Central Valley. It covers a stretch of land spanning 500 miles from Bakersfield to Mt. Shasta and recommends the state invest $20 million in new projects and infrastructure improvements.
Given the billions of dollars necessary to beef up the state’s flood control, where does California stand? What vulnerabilities currently exist in the state’s flood management infrastructure? And how would the state get the money for the fixes? How would major flooding in the Central Valley affect Southern California?
John Cain, Conservation Director for California Floodplain Management for American Rivers, a national non-profit conservation organization; his work focuses on issues including flood risk reduction in the Central Valley and the Bay-Delta ecosystem
Mike Mierzwa, chief of the Flood Planning Office in the California Department of Water Resources; he is the lead flood planner for California
Debra Bishop, a restoration ecologist and a Principal with H.T. Harvey & Associates, an ecological consultant firm. She was one of the main authors on the conservation strategy of the plan