Aug 29 2011

The Next New Orleans? (Part 4)


On this day in 2005, after seeming to have survived Hurricane Katrina’s landfall in good shape, levees were breached from the storm surge and New Orleans was flooded like nothing we’d ever seen in this country before.


It was an unbelievable tragedy that New Orleans has only somewhat recovered from to this very day. Close to 1500 people died in New Orleans alone due to the hurricane and the extensive flooding.


The Impacts of the Disaster in New Orleans

The events of Hurricane Katrina and the disaster in New Orleans triggered a number of effects including a report card published in January of 2006 by the Sacramento section of ASCE that gave the Central Valley levee system an overall grade of a D. The best graded individual bypass or channel was Yolo Bypass with a grade of only a C+! The San Joaquin River Delta area and Cache Creek (a tributary to the Sacramento River) both received an F.

Leaders very quickly began putting the pieces together of the potential for disaster in the Central Valley and around Sacramento. The picture below shows some scenarios for a prime development area in north Sacramento, the suburb of Natomas. There has been a lot of controversy here because the Corps of Engineers had to decertify the levees (for good reason!), slowing development and bringing the possibility of very high flood insurance for all residents. It’s been a scramble to get the money to fix and increase the height of the levees. Maybe half of the needed repairs have been done to this date. The nickname that we have for this area? The Natomas Bath Tub.


The Governator Declares State of Emergency


In February of 2006, not long after ASCE’s report card was released, Governor Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency for the Central Valley levees. What this did was finally kick emergency repairs in gear. The annual levee inventory/inspection was utilized and work began immediately on sites that were deemed “critical.” By “critical,” I mean a weak point along the levee that is an imminent threat to the integrity of the flood control system. The initial designs and plans were completed within 2 months for 26 critical locations and construction was completed that summer. Since then, over 70 levee repairs have been made (as opposed to only 5 in the previous 13 years leading up to 2006).

Sac RM 62.8 riprap

In my next and final post of this series, I’ll discuss where the system is at currently and the challenges that still lay ahead.

2 pings

  1. » The Next New Orleans? (Part 5) Hydraulically Inclined

    […] In the past 6 years since Hurricane Katrina caused levee breaches and flooded New Orleans, a lot of steps have been taken in the Central Valley to alleviate risk. Over 70 critical sites along the levees have been repaired in the Sacramento Valley alone. Multiple agencies are working together better than before between the USACE, DWR, and other resource agencies. The USACE made it a goal to repair at least 10,000 linear feet of levee every year and seem to have stuck to that. Budget cuts may hinder that moving forward, but great strides have been made. Below is video put out by the USACE Sacramento District and it’s pretty well done, covering some of the issues that I have previously covered in this series and helps visualize the levee system in place. […]

  2. Hurricane Isaac Hits the Louisiana & Mississippi Coast on the 7th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina (Footage) » Hydraulically Inclined

    […] week, on the 7th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Isaac hit the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts, essentially sitting over the area with […]

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