1 in 5 Californians live in flood zone
SACRAMENTO (AP) — As California endures one of its driest winters, on record, some state water managers are focused on the opposite end of the precipitation spectrum — the one in five residents who live in regions susceptible to catastrophic flooding.
More than $575 billion in development and $7 billion in farm output rests on or around floodplains, according to a joint state-federal report released Tuesday to sound a warning.
The price tag for capital improvements that would be needed to protect the state's infrastructure from potential devastation could top $100 billion, the report warns, which is 10 times more than exists in funding from bond measures and other sources to shore up aging levies and dams.
Already 800 flood projects have been identified.
"We realized that even those projects will not even provide the basic level of flood protection from 100-year and 500-year floods statewide," said Terri Wegener, manager of the Department of Water Resources statewide flood management program.
The report released on the department website attempts to identify areas at risk so water managers can prioritize projects.
The report by the department and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the first comprehensive look at flood dangers and impact across a state exposed to tsunamis on the coast to rapid snowmelt in Sierra watersheds.
Authorities hope that it's used to guide future land-use and development decisions, as well as by policymakers charged with protecting state assets.
"The point is to raise awareness statewide," said Wegener. "The risk is complex in California and it's important for people to understand."
The report also considers the impacts that100-year and 500-year floods could have on the more than 300 endangered and threatened plants and animals that live in some of the most at-risk regions and on flood plains altered by development. It recommends restoring natural ecosystems in some places to improve water movement.
The department will hold a series of meetings across the state through April to talk about findings.
"We made recommendations for managing flood risk so we can inform decisions about policies and financial investments in the coming years and decades," Wegener said.