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Spring 2012

Flood Plan Skepticism

When the Department of Water Resources (DWR) released the public draft of the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan in December 2011, I doubt they were prepared for the public outcry.  Numerous meetings have been held throughout the state and agricultural rural communities are sending a clear message that they will not be the sacrifice zone for urban areas.

For farmers and rural community members the reality is, what’s in it for me?  After reading the Plan, it is clear that rural communities are provided no guarantees for increased flood protection.  The Plan calls for tens of thousands of acres of farmland to be taken out of production to incorporate habitat restoration within the floodway. At a recent meeting in Colusa, DWR stated that 96 percent of all riparian habitat in the Central Valley has been lost.  I find it disingenuous that the number only seems to get smaller despite the over 80,000 acres of land that has been restored in the Sacramento Valley alone.

When the state changed the name from “flood control” to “flood management” it was a sign that the times were changing.  No longer was the state going to try to prevent flooding, but to manage the damage and reduce their liability. The outcry against the Plan is due to that reality the small and rural communities truly get the short end of the stick in this Plan.  We are only guaranteed “all weather” access to our levees.  This means that the state will cost share placing gravel on the top of our levees to help with access during flood fighting. 

As taxpayers we deserve more.  Family Water Alliance along with landowners, and levee maintaining districts made it clear that we would not accept a plan that did not provide adequate flood protection for small and rural communities.  Caveats that allow the state to ignore the benefits that agriculture provides to our flood control system is simply unacceptable.  We take pride in our communities and want to assure that our families, property and businesses are protected from the devastating damages of flooding. 

There is a common ground.  There are projects that we support. It seems that the agenda by the environmental community has been inserted in this Plan and the hundreds of private property owners, elected officials, and farmers that have voiced concerns have fallen on deaf ears. 
I hope that I am wrong and that it is not too late because we all deserve more. ■


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