Regional Officials Get Levee Safety Update

With California’s rainy season and what had been dire predictions of an El Nino weather pattern now behind them, leaders of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers San Francisco District brought together water safety officials from across the region July 7 to provide an update on Corps levee safety and security issues. 

Officials from several Bay-area counties who work on flood control projects involving levees, floodwalls and channels were briefed on inspection and safety related updates including revisions to the National Flood Risk Management Program.  “We have a couple of federal projects and want to see if there have been any updates to policies or guidelines,” said Felix Meneau, an engineer with Marin County Flood Control who was among the attendees at the 8th annual San Francisco District Levee Workshop held at the Bay Model Visitor Center in Sausalito, Calif.   

 “These types of events are invaluable because the rules and regulations change all the time.  It’s hard to keep up with it,” Lt. Col. John C. Morrow, the San Francisco District commander told the workshop.  The Corps’ national flood risk management program, aimed at increasing the federal government’s ability to mitigate flood risk nationwide, is being revised.  “The overall goal is to reduce the flood risk, and we want to make sure the structures are more resilient,” said Craig Conner, Flood Risk Management Program Manager for the district told attendees.

 Levee and dam inspections are one way of ensuring the Corps and its non-federal partners will be prepared when this year’s rainy season returns to the Bay Area, although as Morrow recalled, predictions of what was supposed to be one of the strongest El Ninos on record failed to materialize last winter.  “All the metrics said this was going to be the worst El Nino in decades, but we ended up getting slightly above annual rainfall.”  

During a normal year, engineers in the district inspect about 55 flood risk-reduction projects including levees, floodwalls or channels to ensure they are properly maintained, to identify issues needing attention or to provide technical assistance.   “With that said, we need to continue to foster our relationships with non-federal sponsors to understand their needs and resources to better inform our messaging of levee safety issues,” said district Levee Safety Program Manager Nick Malasavage. 

 While meetings like these rarely draw widespread public attention, what was discussed here certainly will when California is again in the crosshairs of another mega rainstorm, which is inevitable.  “The citizens are expecting we do the best job we can,” said Morrow.  “When the chips are down and they’re getting flooded, all they know is they need help.”