Central Valley Flood Protection Plan

Despite reticence in Washington, D.C. about the term “climate change” (see yesterday’s blog post on this topic), there is plenty of discussion in the media and in scientific circles about whether intense, off-the-charts storms like Hurricane Harvey are the result of, or are associated with, climate change. Unfortunately, we are unlikely to see a widely agreed-upon answer to that question (at least in political circles) in the near future. The good news is that the flood management community doesn’t need to have a precise answer to that question in order to consider how to deal with the uncertainty associated with changes in climate that scientists are predicting over the next few decades.

All eyes are appropriately on Houston right now, where record rainfall has led to catastrophic flooding, loss of life, inestimable damages, and years if not decades of recovery and re-building. Around the country, many communities are now sitting up and paying more attention to that question, “what if that happened here?” Here in Sacramento, where Hurricane Katrina served as a stark warning in 2005 of what can happen when a large storm event overwhelms a flood protection system, the State and local flood protection and maintenance agencies have been hard at work bringing urban levees up to higher standards of protection, consistent with the State’s Central Valley Flood Protection Plan. That Plan was required by Legislation passed in 2007 and paid for by a bond initiative passed by California voters in 2006 – both a clear response to the damage and loss of life in New Orleans due to Hurricane Katrina.