Flood Protection Plan seeks funding from Department of Water Resources
A meeting on the FEMA flood mapping in Colusa County is scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday in the conference room of Colusa Industrial Properties.
An application for $2.1 million will be submitted this week to the state Department of Water Resources to fund the area's regional planning of the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan.
The funding will pay for a consultant to develop a project list, prioritize those projects and to develop a financial plan for the Upper- and Mid-Sacramento River consolidated region.
"We have already submitted it as a draft, and they gave us some comments back," said Lewis Bair, who the general manager of Reclamation 108, the Sacramento River Levee District and Knights Landing Ridge Draining District.
He is also on the regional steering committee that is facilitating the development of the plan.
There is actually steering committees for the Upper Sacramento and for the Mid-Sacramento regions, and one that combines members of each.
The focus of the committees, once the planning funding is in place, will be to hold a series of meetings throughout the region to get input on the projects that are most desired, and feedback on the kind of financial commitment the area residents are willing to absorb.
The goal is to develop the plan in 18 months once the meetings begin. Bair believes that may be a bit too ambitious. Those meetings are expected to start sometime in April.
Ben Carter, who was on the board that helped develop the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan, calls those community meetings a great opportunity for area residents.
"The way I look at it ... have an opportunity to decide how we want to lower the risk," said Carter, who is the husband of Supervisor Denise Carter, who also sits on the steering committee.
The results of that planning could have a significant impact on residents, business and agricultural interests as the Federal Emergency Management Agency is also in the process of remapping the flood zones in the county.
And while the two projects — the flood plan and the flood mapping — are independent of each other, they cannot be separated in their practical influence on each other.
That is because the location of the FEMA flood plains have a direct impact on insurance rates, public safety issues and even where future development — from housing to a new grain silo or even a barn — will be allowed.
The flood protection plan will outline projects that could improve the protection levels of the area levees, and by doing so, ease some of the flood mapping restrictions.
Bair said a year ago he would have assumed the worst from the FEMA mapping guidelines, but with recent changes, he is not so sure. It might not be as bad as first thought.
Funding for the levee projects will likely fall primarily on the local property owners, although officials believe there will be some state, and possibly some federal grants available.
There is no specific estimates on upgrading the levees, but it will certainly be in the millions. Statewide, the estimate has been widely circulated at $17 billion, but that figure is no longer considered all that accurate.
Local property owners will have to approve by ballot, through the Proposition 218 process, any flood protection assessments.
The goal is to bring levees that protect the area's small communities — Colusa, Princeton and Grimes in Colusa County — to a 100-year protection level.
The rural areas come under a less structured levee protection design, which in a real sense is still being formulated.
Carter said he has seen studies that show some of the levees are already at 140-year protection, but other studies show them to be as low as 20 years.
"There just isn't an agreed upon standard," Ben Carter said.
FEMA only concerns itself with the weakest section of any given levee section, and the potential for flooding if that levee area were to be compromised.
That means for Colusa, for example, the stretch of levee that would have to be improved goes beyond city limits. However, officials said the length of levee would not be as far as many might suspect, maybe around 1,000 feet.
And no matter what, the flood protection plan will have no impact on areas of the county not protected by levees, but can still be subject to flooding by foothill creeks and other sources. Those too will fall into the FEMA mapping system.
Right now the focus is on the flood management plan.
After a long, sometimes difficult process, the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan was approved by the state Legislature and signed by the governor in July.
It is the first attempt to develop a statewide flood systems protection plan.
Depending on the population of urban centers, the levees are required to be at 200-year protection. Those communities of 10,000 residents or fewer are required to meet 100-year protection.
Colusa is in an a unique position because it could reach the 10,000 population threshold over the next 10 years, which would put it in a different category.