Saturday, September 29, 2007

Flood Ready?

One would think that celebrating reaching a 200 year flood level, considering New Orleans had a 250 year level right before it flooded, is somewhat shortsighted, but if the eventual goal was reaching the level virtually all other major river cities in the nation have, which is a 500 year level, then it could rightly be announced ( and celebrated) as a vital step on the path to optimal protection.

Editorial: Waters may rise, but so will region's readiness
Score one for trees -- and federal, state and local efforts to prepare for wet years
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, September 29, 2007

Situated where it is, Sacramento must take advantage of the dry periods to prepare for the wet ones. Lately, there have been several notable developments -- some out of the public eye -- to improve the cause of protecting Sacramento and the Central Valley from the next major flood.

Saving the trees

Until this month, it appeared the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers might enforce a one-size-fits-all approach in requiring trees to be removed near flood control levees. Strict enforcement might have denuded parts of the American River Parkway and other riverbanks in the Valley. It also would have forced flood agencies to spend huge sums on tree removal -- money needed for other projects.

That threat has eased. The Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency held a scientific conference that revealed strong evidence that healthy trees pose little or no structural risks near levees, and can be beneficial.

Mayor Heather Fargo, Department of Water Resources Deputy Director Les Harder and others urged the corps to review this evidence before acting.

This month, the corps said it would not enforce the strict policy until a new one is developed. Credit goes to Lt. Gen. Robert Van Antwerp, the corps' chief engineer, for working with local officials. Although there's more to be done on developing an updated policy on levee vegetation, flood agencies can now focus fully on more pressing priorities.