As part of his 2020-2021 budget, Governor Newsom has proposed a $4.75 Climate Resilience Bond for the November 2020 ballot. The Climate Resilience Bond includes funding for adaptation to increased river flooding, sea level rise, wildfires, and heat from climate change, as well as $1 billion for “water resilience.” This blog post addresses the Governor’s proposal for flood investments.
Climate change will bring increased frequency and severity of flooding to the Central Valley. To avoid catastrophic flooding, major investments will need to be made.
The need for investments for adaptation to increased flood risks is greatest in the San Joaquin River watershed. Climate change models for the 2017 Central Valley Flood Protection Plan Update project a 35-50% increase in 200 year flood flows in the San Joaquin River tributaries by 2041-2070.
The greatest risk to people and property in the San Joaquin River basin is the Stockton Metropolitan area. The US Army Corps of Engineers has estimated that there are 235,000 people and $28.7 billion of damageable property in the 500 year floodplain in the Stockton area, which will largely become the 200 year floodplain with climate change. The Stockton area levees need $1.3 billion in upgrades simply to have adequate protection against current 200 year flood levels.
USACE / Lower San Joaquin River Feasibility Study / 500 yr flood
The Stockton levees are just one example of critical needs for flood risk reduction. The planning and investments we make now will determine whether people in vulnerable communities are displaced by flooding at mid-century, or whether they even survive.
In the 2017 Update to the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan (CVFPP), the Central Valley Flood Protection Board proposed an investment of $17 to $21 bllion over the next 30 years for flood risk reduction in the Central Valley. This would require issuance of $2.25 to $2.8 billion of flood bonds every four years. The Governor’s $4.75 billion Climate Resilience Bond proposes $610 million for urban flood control and systemwide multi-benefit projects, for the next four years:
• Flood Control: Urban/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Projects—$340 million for Urban Flood Risk Reduction projects that provide the projected state cost share needs for various priority projects through 2024-25
• Flood Control: Systemwide Multi-benefit—$270 million to support multi-benefit flood risk reduction and ecosystem restoration efforts.
The Governor’s Climate Resilience Bond proposal is a good start, but it is about one fourth of the investment that the Central Valley Flood Protection Board estimated was needed. The Governor’s Climate Resilience Bond does propose earmarking significant fund for systemwide multi-benefit projects. This approach was recommended by the Central Valley Flood Protection Board in the 2017 Update to the CVFPP.
2017 CVFPP Update Current and Desired Investment Distribution
However, the Governor’s bond proposal does not allocate any funds specifically for risk reduction for small communities. The Central Valley Flood Protection Board recommended dedicating of 10% of flood funding for small communities in the 2017 CVFPP. This would be a relatively small additional investment in the Climate Resilience Bond.
2017 CVFPP Recommended Investment Mix
The Governor’s budget does not address the chronic under funding of maintenance, repair, and rehabilitation of the State Plan of Flood Control Levees, which the Central Valley Flood Protection Board identified as a critical need. With climate change, this network of aging levees is increasingly vulnerable, as are the communities behind them. The 2017 Update to Central Valley Flood Protection Plan estimated that $131 million is needed annually for maintenance and repair of the State Plan of Flood Control Levees. The Governor’s budget should address this need.
Finally, the detail for the Governor’s budget shows a reduction of seven positions at the Central Valley Flood Protection Board. Such a reduction would be counter to the critical need for the state agency charged with protecting Central Valley communities from flooding to have adequate funding for planning and analysis.