USA: Army Corps Upgrades Natomas Levee Maintenance Rating
Natomas levees are eligible for federal rehabilitation assistance again after levee managers for Reclamation District No. 1000 fixed the most serious items identified in a recent levee inspection and the Corps approved a letter of intent to deal with remaining encroachments and vegetation issues over time.
A letter of intent is the first step of applying for a system-wide improvement framework, or SWIF, a Corps policy that allows levee maintaining agencies to have eligibility for federal levee rehabilitation assistance while they work to fix difficult maintenance items according to an approved plan and timeline.
“I appreciate the efforts of the Corps to work with us on the flexible approach offered by the SWIF process to address the highest risk items first and allow the remaining items to be brought up to the Corps’ standards over a longer period,” RD 1000 General Manager Paul Devereux said. “Approval of our letter of intent allows us to remain eligible for critical federal funding should our levees be damaged by a major flood. Construction of the Natomas Levee Improvement Project, which is 50 percent complete due to the efforts of the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency and the state, will address most of the issues raised by the Corps in their inspection. The reclamation district will address the remaining items through the SWIF process.”
The Corps rated maintenance of the 42-mile system of levees surrounding Sacramento’s Natomas area as unacceptable after inspections in 2010 found localized erosion and encroachments. Inspection findings determine levee systems’ continued eligibility for the Corps’ rehabilitation and inspection program, the Corps’ authority to provide federal assistance for repairing levees damaged by floods or storms. Systems rated unacceptable are those found not to meet Corps levee safety criteria and are therefore ineligible for federal aid in repairing flood or storm damage to levees until the deficiencies are corrected.
Reinstatement in the Corps’ rehabilitation and inspection program does not affect Natomas’ status in FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program.
“This is exactly what our rehabilitation and inspection program is all about – working together to make levees safer,” said Col. Mike Farrell, commander of the Corps’ Sacramento District. “It’s a great example of how our policy has the flexibility to allow us to continue making progress at reducing flood risk in very challenging situations.”
Active status, and eligibility for rehabilitation assistance, is reinstated as of Jan. 8, 2013 – the date of RD 1000’s re-inspection request letter. In order to retain eligibility, RD 1000 and the Central Valley Flood Protection Board must submit a detailed plan for addressing remaining deficiencies by May 16, 2015.
Jay Punia, CVFPB executive officer, said, “Our staff worked collaboratively with RD 1000 and the Department of Water Resources to map a strategy for the system-wide improvement framework captured in the letter of intent. We are pleased with the positive response we received from the Corps validating our approach to levee improvement. We hope to replicate this strategy with many other local maintaining agencies seeking to gain reinstatement in the Corps’ rehabilitation and inspection program to ensure continuing coverage for post-flood disaster rehabilitation funding.”
The Natomas levee system is also the first in the nation to receive an approved Corps levee vegetation variance. The extra-wide levees planned there under an ongoing levee improvement project eliminate the threat trees pose to levee stability, allowing the trees to permanently stay as long as the maintenance requirements outlined in the variance continue to be met and they accommodate the continued operations and maintenance of the levee system.
All but a 0.4-mile stretch of the Natomas East Main Drainage Canal part of the levee system is covered by the variance; a plan for addressing vegetation on this stretch is required as part of the planned SWIF due in 2015.
Press Release, July 26, 2013