Conservation Groups Call for Levee Set-Backs and Increased Use of Bypasses as Central Strategy in Long-Term Flood Management Plan
SACRAMENTO, Calif., April 6, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — The Central Valley Flood Protection Board is holding a series of public outreach meetings regarding the Draft Program Environmental Impact Report for the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan. The final plan will establish a roadmap for land use and flood protection planning throughout the Central Valley for the coming century.
The Department of Water Resources was charged with developing the plan through 2007 legislation that called for a comprehensive approach to flood management in the Central Valley. Several leading conservation groups have come together to advocate for a practical approach to flood management that reduces uncertainty and improves public safety, water quality and security, and habitat for native wildlife.
The Nature Conservancy, Natural Resources Defense Council, California Trout, American Rivers, Trout Unlimited, Environmental Defense Fund, Tuolumne River Trust, National Wildlife Federation, and River Partners jointly issue the following statements regarding their vision for the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan.
Central Valley at Risk for Serious Flooding
“The Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers are currently constricted by a vast and aging system of levees, designed, in many cases, decades or even a century ago.
“The system is not constructed to handle the real possibility of a catastrophic flood. With extreme weather occurring on a more regular basis, it’s time to improve and modernize this system of levees, bypasses, and dams to manage these kinds of scenarios.
“Among the areas at risk are the cities of Sacramento and Stockton, which could experience flooding much like New Orleans did during Hurricane Katrina. Future floods and rising sea levels could also overwhelm the Delta and likely disrupt the delivery of fresh water to 25 million people throughout the state who rely on the Delta for a portion of their water supplies.
“Large failures of the Central Valley flood-management systems could cause up to $60 billion in property damage in the Central Valley plus tens of billions of dollars more in lost economic activity across the state and nation.
“The Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers are currently constricted by a vast and aging system of levees, designed, in many cases, many decades or even a century ago without sufficient room to accommodate floodwaters.”
Flood Plan Should Focus on More Room for High Water Flows
“It is critically important that the flood plan incorporate floodplains, flood bypasses, and levee setbacks to give rivers room to spread out during high water flows. These mechanisms take pressure off of existing levees by giving high waters a designated place to go. Incorporating temporary storage areas into the plan is the best way to safely manage large floods and protect communities. Flood bypasses and levee setbacks are a proven and cost effective technology that have been successfully employed in communities across the country.
“Flood-management policies that give rivers room to expand protect lives and property, provide land-use planning certainty for local governments, increase the reliability and quality of our state’s water supply by protecting the Delta and recharging groundwater, reduce uncontrolled flood risk for agriculture, and create benefits for fish, wildlife, and recreation.
“We look forward to working with the Flood Protection Board to define the best opportunities for setting back levees, expanding bypasses, and otherwise providing sufficient space for the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers to ebb and flow as part of their natural processes. Particularly in this era of increasing extreme weather events, it is essential that the Board take a long view of how best to prevent catastrophic damage from the inevitable Central Valley Flood.”
SOURCE Natural Resources Defense Council; The Nature Conservancy; American Rivers; Environmental Defense Fund; Tuolumne River Trust; National Wildlife Federation; River Partners; Trout Unlimited; California Trout