Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Sacramento Flooding, Part Two

As we posted yesterday, a series on flood control began in the Sacramento Bee this past Sunday, and the opening statement by the editor is included in today’s post, but it also reminds us of the knowledge of the magnitude of the flood threat Sacramento faces that others have been expressing for years.

Congressman John Doolittle, who has been supporting the Auburn Dam as the optimal solution to Sacramento’s flood threat for over two decades says on his website:

“The Sacramento Region has the unusual distinction of suffering from both the threat of severe flooding and drought in the very same year. The Auburn Dam is the only project which would solve both of these water management needs. Without it, Sacramento will inevitably suffer from catastrophic flooding, and our region will continue to suffer from the effects of a depleting water supply. The construction of the Auburn Dam has been a top priority of mine for over two decades because it is the solution to so many of Northern California’s most pressing problems.The flood control plan advanced by the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency (SAFCA) - a half billion dollar plan which calls for modifications to Folsom Dam and levee improvements along the American River - is seriously flawed.

Superior Flood Protection: With only a 95-year level flood protection (a one-in-95 chance of flooding in any given year), the City of Sacramento holds the distinction of having the least flood protection for its residents of any comparable city in the United States. Serious storm events in 1986 and 1997 highlighted this precarious situation. For example, in 1986, Folsom Lake filled to within three inches of overflow and critical failure. Additionally, flood waters washed away a small coffer dam meant to keep the Auburn construction site dry and downstream levees failed and seeped while terrified Sacramento officials came within hours of evacuating 35,000 people. “

For the rest of the story: http://www.house.gov/doolittle/auburn-dam.html

And Joe Sullivan of the Sacramento County Tax League, wrote in 2001:

“As Sacramento's flood control facilities have only about a 95-year flood capability, for the next 4 to 5 years we can be inundated by a 100-year flood. Yet, despite efforts of the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency (SAFCA) and all our local elected state and congressional officials during the 15 years since 1986, the best they have been able to do is put together a patchwork of small flood control projects that allegedly will raise the valley's flood control level to 140-years by about 2005.

This is well below the 200-year level, agreed by all to be a minimum for protection of Sacramento, and way below the 500-year protection enjoyed by all the major cities in the United States adjacent to major rivers.”

For the rest of the story: http://sactax.org/auburndam/index.asp?body=case4_auburndam

With this in context, the following introduction to the Bee’s series is instructive.

Rick Rodriguez: We must learn from Katrina's hard lessons
By Rick Rodriguez -- Executive editor and senior vice president of The BeePublished 2:15 am PST Sunday, October 30, 2005

When the board of directors of the American Society of Newspaper Editors met in Sacramento last month, two members notably were missing.

Jim Amoss, editor of the Times-Picayune of New Orleans, and Stan Tiner, executive editor of the Sun Herald in Biloxi, Miss., were back home leading their papers as their communities dealt with the horrendous devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

In both communities, the newspapers provided enormous public service. Despite severe damage at their own buildings, they published daily, either online or in print, keeping residents of their ravaged communities linked and keeping those of us on the outside informed as well.

They were the trusted sources, their community's watchdogs, the ones to whom people turned for hope and answers.

At the editors' meeting, we talked to Amoss and Tiner in conference calls. They told poignant, heartbreaking stories of loss, the enormity of which was hard to comprehend. They told uplifting stories of extraordinary effort and kindness in times of crisis. They told of people longing for news - news of missing family members, news about their neighborhoods, any news at all that could help maintain the sense of community and restore hope. And their words had a profound impact on those of us in the room, just as the images that you all saw in print and on television had a profound impact on many of you.

So in Katrina's aftermath, we at The Bee found ourselves asking the obvious question: Could this happen here? Could the community where we live, the community that we love, be equally devastated by floods?

We set out to answer that question and more, to help expose problems that can be corrected so we don't have to go through what New Orleans and Biloxi and many more cities on the Gulf Coast have gone through.

Today, we publish the answer to the first major question. The answer is worse than we thought.

"There is ... no major city in America more at risk of a catastrophic New Orleans-style flood than Sacramento," concludes staff writer Deb Kollars, one of three reporters we've assigned to investigate flood-related questions in the region.

For the rest of the story: http://www.sacbee.com/content/news/projects/flooding/story/13790553p-14632247c.html