Revised Delta Levees Investment Strategy approved over objections by Delta stakeholders

At the August 2021 meeting, the Delta Stewardship Council voted to approve a revised Delta Levees Investment Strategy and to move to formal rulemaking, with Councilmember Don Nottoli, Chair of the Delta Protection Commission, voting against the proposal.

The Delta Levees Investment Strategy prioritizes state funding for Delta levees.  Levees marked “very high” priority (red), are supposed to receive state funding before levees marked “high” priority (green.)  Levees marked “other” priority are purported to provide no state benefit.

Many Delta stakeholders objected to the revised Delta Levees Investment Strategy, including Dante Nomellini, Sr. from the Central Delta Water Agency, Melinda Terry from the Central Valley Flood Association, James Crowder from Local Agencies of the North Delta, Gil Cosio from MBK Engineers. Deirdre Des Jardins from California Water Research also objected.

Our remarks are transcribed below.  Comments of other stakeholders are transcribed here.

Deirdre Des Jardins: … as a physicist, I approach the Delta Levees Investment Strategy from the viewpoint of preventing future human disasters. I told the Central Valley Flood Board and I made similar comments to this Council, whether people are displaced by climate change or whether they even survive will depend on the decisions that this Council makes now. And nobody — and I strongly object — has followed up with me in any way on the comments that I made about the Delta legacy towns not being adequately protected and being put on “other” priority. I’m very concerned about the Clarksburg area. There’s a thousand people that live in that area. Looks like a significant chunk of it is marked “other” priority. I cannot tell from your map if the Delta High School is “other” priority. And I think it is profoundly unethical to weigh protecting the High School and the library as not requiring state investment. That is not managed retreat. That is inviting a future disaster.

There’s also an issue with the Delta Levee Investment Strategy, the original tool did not adequately weigh the need to preserve River Road for evacuation purposes. And you can look along similar lines and see that areas of Highway 160 or River Road are not protected from being washed out. The other thing that I feel shows DWR’s priorities, DWR has a history of not adequately investing in flood control for protection of people. We saw that with the Oroville Spillway Incident. And I’m very concerned that Clifton Court Forebay is still on the list. The Clifton Court Forebay embankments are not levees. It’s a jurisdictional dam that’s owned by the Department of Water Resources. And I formally object to it being included in the high priority [tier] and requiring state investment over protecting these communities. State law requires that revenues from water sales should go first to operation maintenance and repair of the State Water Project and replacement of parts thereof. That should be paid for by revenues from the State Water Project. And I just I have to object to this. This is just not ethical, and I am very sad that nobody reached out, nobody gave any opportunity for anybody who was knowledgeable about disaster planning to give this kind of feedback. Thank you.

DSC Executive Director Jessica Pearson: we currently have a regulation that prioritizes Delta levee investments. I think that gets forgotten a lot of the time. We seek to improve upon that regulation and we will always be improving on that regulation. We have a five year mandatory review of the Delta plan and I think we’ll end up having a five year review of the Delta Levees investment strategy…

DSC Chair Susan Tatayon:  This process started when I joined the Council in 2014. And we’ve come a long way. And I’m really proud of the MOU Working Group… The Flood Board, Darin, the Department of Water Resources with Laura and with others, our staff, there have been many, many meetings. There have been many meetings with stakeholders. And by adopting this resolution, we are not closing the door on the conversation. So. In addition to that, when we started this process way back in 2014. I think we were asked to do this, develop this tool by the Department of Water Resources … Our plan will be reviewed every five years and updated, so I am eager to start this this process by adopting a resolution 2021-08. So many council members, any other comments, questions?

DSC member Don Nottoli:  … I think more time, a little more time anyway before we initiate the process could be beneficial to the outcome. Because what I also heard and some of the comments that at the end of the day, we can take this all the way to a conclusion and keep the door open. But if we could have some of those differences narrowed, it might be in a better place to have our efforts go to the ultimate goal here, and that is to have a Delta that’s preserved and protected for all the various amenities that are there and and certainly for the people, but for the four things that are important to make up the Delta and certainly the charges council has. So I will not be supporting moving forward today. I don’t suppose you know where we are at here, but I think more time, a bit more time would be beneficial. That’s my take on it. Thanks.

Related posts on the 2019 Delta Levees Investment Strategy (since rescinded and revised.)

Delta Levees Investment Strategy: protecting Delta smelt?

Vanishing funds for levee upgrades for smaller, vulnerable Delta communities

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