When first built the levees worked as designed, but with the development that has occurred over the past 150 years, they have become essentially dysfunctional without the support of a major dam that will, by itself, provide 500 year flood protection.
Now it appears, without the support of a 500 year dam, they may lose what beauty they have.
Tree-laden levees flunk federal inspection
State seeks compromise to save riverside habitat
By Matt Weiser - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, April 7, 2007
A national directive by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could devastate scenery and wildlife habitat in California by forcing Central Valley flood control officials to chop down virtually all trees and shrubs on their levees.
A compromise is being negotiated, but unless the policy changes, tree-lined banks on 1,600 miles of levees in the Valley could be transformed into barren culverts within a year.
"It's hard to say how draconian these measures will be," said Gary Hobgood, an environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Game. "As it stands now, California has lost 97 percent of its riparian habitat since the arrival of Europeans. So we're down to this last thread of habitat."
The conflict highlights a difficult dance by federal and state officials who must weigh the need for no-frills flood control and California's tradition of also using levees for environmental protection and visual esthetics.
"Let's not forget we are a very proud city of trees. Now they're trying to take this away from us," said Sacramento artist Gregory Kondos, whose paintings of tree-dappled levees have earned him a worldwide following. "We're going to lose a landmark. It's not going to be anything that we can be proud of."