7 area levees could fail in a flood
The Department of Water Resources has identified seven critical sites in Colusa County along levees on the Sacramento River that could fail in the next high-water incident.
The locations are eligible for a state cost-share program and were identified in a collaborative effort between the Department of Water Resources and local maintenance agencies.
The Flood System Repair Project, which aids local maintaining agencies in reducing flood risks primarily in non-urban areas, has identified more than 100 critical sites in the state that are available for a cost-share with $150 million in state funds from Proposition 1E funds.
"We're going to fix these sites. We're not going to wait for a regional plan," said Noel Lerner, chief of the Flood Maintenance Office, Department of Water Resources, during a regional flood planning meeting on Thursday in Colusa.
According to Lewis Bair, manager of Reclamation District 108, the Sacramento River levees are very sandy, and the levees along the Colusa Drain are made of heavy clay material, which tends to slump and have structural problems.
According to Lerner, whether or not the sites will be fixed this year is dependent on the ability of local reclamation districts to cost-share the repairs.
Bair said his agency is prepared financially to move forward with projects in his districts, and landowners have approved an increased assessment.
But, he said, working with the state to take advantage of the cost-share can be cumbersome and is a decision each agency has to make.
"You can get 85 percent state funding by going with the state. But when you do, it's like pulling a giant sled," Bair said.
He said working with the state through permitting and design process "chews up time and chews up money.
"We're going to try to see how this program works. My experience with new programs is, they're a little slow and cumbersome," he said.
Bair's coverage area includes three flood districts, two of which contain sites identified as critical.
"One is a couple miles north of Grimes. It's a very sandy levee. We've had to sandbag there, and water has actually started to move material," Bair said.
He said he disagrees with a second location the Department of Water Resources identified about six miles upstream from Knight's Landing. He said he believes the real problem is about three miles downstream.
"Its really kind of been a frustrating process. When they first came out with this program, they said they were doing all this research. We said, 'Hey look, we already know the problem sites,'" Bair said.
Lerner said he directed his staff that this is not a top-down program and to work with the local agencies.
"We have concurrence with all but one or two of the (reclamation districts) that 'yes, these are the critical sites.' In some instances, they said 'no, these are the critical sites,'" Lerner said.
He said staff has gone out to look and then found a meeting of the minds.
Bair said he is going to go back to the state and discuss his difference in assessment.
Lerner said this has been a process.
"Way back in 2007, we identified 32 emergency sites on the Sacramento River that were deemed in danger of failing. Then, that expanded to about 100 sites. This program was to further that effort in that we looked at the system, various sources of data, and identified sites that could fail in the next high water," Noel said.
Lerner admitted that "we have no idea what high flows are going to be or any flows are going to be this winter." But, they think the sites they've identified present a threat.
"How high it can get before these sites fail, there is no way to know," Lerner said.