Congressman Josh Harder Thursday stood near ground zero of where the fluctuating snowpack in the Sierra can cause serious problems when it is too little and when it is too much.
Harder was at the San Joaquin National Wildlife Refuge that extends to the Stanislaus River just 10 miles south of Manteca.
He was there to get an update on efforts to eradicate large invasive swap rodents known as nutrias that can seriously damage vegetation and levees. As such, they pose serious flooding and environmental threats. Harder is leading the push to keep critical federal funding levels of the eradication effort in place.
The wildlife refuge is at the confluence of the Stanislaus and San Joaquín rivers in the area where 11 levee breaches occurred in the January 1997 flood that inundated 70 square miles between Tracy and Manteca due to the impact of a rapid melt of a heavy Sierra snowpack.
It is also at the heart of the Northern San Joaquin Valley that has been hit hard by a series of droughts in the past 20 years.
Harder got a chance to ask wildlife workers in the field about the impacts of snowpack melt fluctuations.
The congressman earlier in the week introduced a bill designed to address the flood risk created by the melting snowpack and come up with an action plan to avoid or reduce flooding as well as take steps to save as much of the water from a melt as possible.
“The cycle of drought and flood is a result of extreme weather, and as climate change gets worse, this problem is only going to get worse,” Harder said. “We all know how precious water is because we’ve experienced so much drought.
“The Central Valley is the fruit and nut basket of the world and protecting our water is essential to our agriculture industry and our way of life. Hearing that the snowpack is melting is great news following a drought, but after the historic amount of rain and snow we’ve had this year, I’m very concerned about the risk of flooding.”
The Flood Prevention and Snowpack Management Act would require a task force to be assembled the day after California’s snowpack reaches 150% of the normal level.
Harder’s bill would require the task force to take action within 90 days. Specifically, the task force would be required to:
*Examine the risks posed by the snowpack
*Identify actions to mitigate flood risks
*Expedite water storage projects
“Studies show our region is more vulnerable during a flood than New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina,” Harder said. “We need to do everything we can to mitigate flood risks, now. My snowpack task force bill is part of a three-pronged flood mitigation plan. Next, we need to expedite levee building and rehabilitation. Then, we need to improve water storage management to promote a reliable water supply – and I’ll be introducing legislation to do that.”
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