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Mar 08 2012

Central Valley Flood Protection Plan: DWR Interview (Part 1)

In a previous post, we introduced the draft  Central Valley Flood Protection Plan (CVFPP), which was released in December. Public meetings have been occurring with more to come and the Central Valley Flood Protection Board has been receiving and documenting public comments.

On February 17th, Dusty and I had the opportunity to discuss the CVFPP with some of the folks from the the California Department of Water Resources (DWR). The representatives for DWR were:

    • Michael Mierzwa (Michael): FloodSAFE Communications Lead / CVFPP Technical Lead, Supervising Engineer
    • Merritt Rice (Merritt): Project Manager, CVFPP
    • Maria Lorenzo-Lee (Maria):  Communications lead for FloodSAFE

We had a number of questions and we had a very good conversation. We thought we would post some of this interview over the course of 3 parts, starting here. The PowerPoint and video mentioned at the beginning is the FloodSAFE CVFPP Overview. These posts will be lengthy because we want to include as much as possible, so each section is called out by the topic so that you can jump to sections that you are interested in. This post (Part 1) will cover our questions regarding the feasibility studies, real estate and land use, and ecosystem integration. Part 2 will cover the climate change strategy, residual risk, and public education. The explanation of the climate change strategy is particularly thorough and technical. Part 3 will cover our questions regarding more on public education, future development, data collection, and use of the census data in the studies.

FEASIBILITY STUDIES

Dusty: We do have a list of questions so I guess I’ll dive in. You talk about the basin wide feasibility studies to be the next step. What is going to be involved with those and when you guys say basin wide feasibility study, could you expand on that a little?

Merritt: What Mike mentioned was that we’ve got regional plans, what he didn’t mention or maybe he did and I didn’t hear it, is that the Central Valley flood protection plan is updated every five years. So in 2017, there will be another update of it and between now and 2017 we hope to have actually constructed some stuff and then constructed more after 2017 for the next 20 to 25 years. The basin wide feasibility studies are intended to try to first, link all of these efforts together, they are to feed into and provide information to the 2017 update of the plan. Right now there are a series of Federal, State, and local cost share feasibility studies in various phases within the Central Valley and they are on their own timeline and we want to make sure when they are implemented, they are implemented consistently with the Central Valley flood protection plan.  So part of the feasibility studies are to help them and link with them and bring into the Central Valley flood protection plan some of their recommendations. There are also these regional plans and the purpose of the feasibility studies are to extract from the regional plans, things that we think that there is a strong Federal interest for. One thing that we are also doing in parallel with the Central Valley flood protection plan and the 2017 update, we are co-sharing with the Federal government, on something called the Central Valley Integrated Flood Management Study (CVIFMS) and the CVIFMS is going to be the vehicle that we are going to go to Congress with (remember that pie chart that Mike showed you [in the video]). The CVIFMS is how we want to incorporate the locally preferred plan. In other words, those elements that we identify in the state wide feasibility studies where there is a Federal interest in, those would go into the state Federal document, that would go to Congress for authorization.

Michael: And can I add one thing to that too? With the next level of those bypasses, which I’m obviously doing a hard sell on that, you can tell by the PowerPoint, that’s where you are going to start seeing more refined work on those elements and that the reason being, it’s really something that cuts across regions and really is of true system interest so it really takes an organization that has that regional response, that system level responsibility, to really go through and provide that leadership so that’s the Department [DWR] and Army Corps of Engineers (Corps).

Dusty: So obviously a lot of work to do in the future and you guys do show the breakout in planned cost share. How do you guys see this divvying up as far as work share between the state, federal, and local agencies? How do you see the breakout of that fanning out as you move forward?

Merritt: I’ll try it again, that’s a good question. We just got the plan out and now we have to figure out how we are going to move forward with the plan and how we are going to conduct the feasibility study and part of that is to, we are putting together several project management plans right now, defining the specific tasks of the feasibility studies, who would do those and a challenge there is to be able to work with the Corps because we don’t want to be double doing things. We don’t want to be developing a set of detailed hydrology, and hydraulic studies and then the Corps has to come along, because their regulations and rules are a little bit different, and they have to do it again. So we will be doing a lot of the work with consultant help but will be working in close partnership with the Corps as well.

REAL ESTATE AND LAND USE

Anthony: A major thing that pops up just as I look at the plan and then your presentation today, and our experience in the past, is the whole issue of land acquisition, especially as you deal with the bypass widening. Could you comment more in terms of strategies for dealing with the real estate issues?

Michael: We’ve had a similar challenge in not just the flood world but for the Department of Water Resources as a whole. Definitely this is eye opening for me that when you get into being an engineer and getting into water management, you think you are talking about the river but everything you are doing with the water has a significant land use impact, So there is a lot of negotiation and discussions to have. Part of the intent of the regional planning effort is prioritization out there, to get the various interest groups in a regional level talking to each other.  Traditionally what has happened when you have a system plan at the state, is that the communication comes from the local to state, then other locals to state, and the locals assume that we are going to pass on the other voices back down to all the locals. But the point of the regional planning effort is to get them at the table talking and for the state to facilitate those discussions. We are hoping that as people see their neighbors needs, they will be able to recognize that there is a benefit for them going through and doing that. Now on the mechanical side, when we talk about those easements, we are talking about getting easements that would be both on the water side of the new facility and on the land side. The land side easement isn’t because we are moving water through there but we are recognizing that we want to have some flexibility in the future out there and generally, when you are talking about putting an easement on somebody, you are paying some very high percentage on the fair property value or the market value on that property. They generally like that, and if there is enough money, they are willing to come and talk. The other thing that we are looking into is how do we actually design those easements? We have the ability to go and put limited term use in or to even change to the repaying of a one time fee at the beginning.  Do we pay over the course of several years? Those are things we prefer the landowners tell us what they are interested in.

ECOSYSTEM INTEGRATION

Dusty: In the CVFPP, you talk a lot about the ecosystem integration. What future goals do you guys have to make sure that it is truly integrated and not just an additional add on piece?

Merritt: Well, actually, that is an interesting question because we have five goals. We have a primary goal which is flood damage reduction and then four supporting goals. One of the supporting goals is ecosystem restoration and then we have operation and maintenance, and several others. One of the concerns early on was that we don’t think of ecosystem restoration in terms of mitigation and enhancement. Now you know that when you are going to construct a flood management project or any kind of a water project, there will be some adverse impacts created. I think Mike was getting at the notion when you talk about land use, you can also extend that concept over to the environment. When you are implementing or when you are designing or planning a project, you try to get people working together so up front when you put the project together, you can identify, to the extent that you can, and design or plan that project to have a minimal adverse footprint, and then build things into it that can actually make it better. We believe strongly in not just formulating alternatives for flood management but also in our conservation strategy that was being developed in parallel with the plan, as part of the plan, and that, at the end of the day, we are going to have an environmental component that is not just compensation. In other words, we are not just compensating for the flood management plan but we are actually going far beyond and working with the other state programs to make it a much better system for the environment.

Michael: And I wanted to add, on a program level, when we talk about implementing some of our flood protection plans; the state has actually come up with guidelines in how we actually provide grants to local communities to pay for the financing and the actual construction of the projects. When we develop the guidelines, the scoring criteria for projects, we talk about and recognize that non-structural flood improvements have a greater system benefit or a greater benefit to the people of California due to the flexibility and the opportunity to incorporate environmental features.  We have the ability when we develop future guidelines to go through and put a higher state cost share on the non-structural improvements relative to the structural improvement. So if you are in a rural community and you want to have a levee improvement and you do something that’s say a levee setback, which makes a more frequent use of a floodplain, that’s nonstructural in nature, the state would pay more for that than raising that rural levee at that existing location.

That concludes Part 1 of our interview! Look for Part 2 to cover the climate change strategy, residual risk, and public education.

The rest of the series:

CVFPP DWR Interview Part 2: Climate change strategy, residual risk, and public education

CVFPP DWR Interview Part 3: Public education, future development, data collection, and use of the census data in the studies

2 pings

  1. » Central Valley Flood Protection Plan: DWR Interview (Part 2) Hydraulically Inclined

    […] with folks at the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) about the draft CVFPP. Check out Part 1 for our questions related to the feasibility studies, real estate and land use, and the ecosystem […]

  2. » Central Valley Flood Protection Plan: DWR Interview (Part 3) Hydraulically Inclined

    […] with folks at the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) about the draft CVFPP. Check out Part 1 for our questions related to the feasibility studies, real estate and land use, and the ecosystem […]

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