When you depend on mile after mile of levees—rather than large centrally placed dams—for your primary flood protection, the need for an annual maintenance and upgrade program is obvious.
We hope the state’s work is completed as planned and that the rainfall this winter will be enough to take care of the needs of the public but not enough to put it at risk.SACRAMENTO
State races to patch deep erosion at 71 levee sites Late-season effort follows summer repairs along delta
Greg Lucas, Chronicle Sacramento Bureau
Wednesday, December 6, 2006 (12-06) 04:00 PST
Sacramento -- More than one month into California's flood season, engineers are scrambling to repair 71 deeply eroded spots that water officials worry could lead to collapse of the delta's levee system, which protects more than 500,000 people and property valued at $47 billion.
The nearly unprecedented repair efforts -- such work is generally not done this close to winter, when weather is bad and water levels high -- come after the state spent the summer and $176 million strengthening 33 other sites it feared could lead to levee breaches when battered by winter storms.
"I expected at this point in time to be patting everybody on the back saying we solved the erosion problems for the year," said Les Harder, deputy director for public safety for the state Department of Water Resources. "Instead, we now have another 71 to do. We're actually further behind than when we started."
Nearly $5 billion in bond funds approved by voters last month won't be available for use until the start of the state's new fiscal year in July. In the interim, state water officials say they're just trying to put Band-Aids on what even they acknowledge is an aging, inadequate, deteriorating system.
Estimates are it would cost $12 billion to $14 billion to restore the levee system to the level of protection it was designed to provide, and even that doesn't offer enough safety for the homes, farms and businesses behind the levees.
"It's like somebody in a car accident is brought into the emergency room with multiple injuries but right now is spurting blood from an artery," Harder said. "We're just patching the artery. We still have a very sick patient."