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DWR updates Council on states Delta flood emergency plan

October 2011

By March 2012 a comprehensive flood emergency preparedness plan for the Delta should be complete, says Geoff Shaw of the Department of Water Resources’ flood operations branch.

Shaw presented an update on the Delta Flood Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery Program at the September meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council. The product of the program will be an emergency plan developed to guide the Department’s actions in the event of a Delta flood emergency or levee failure.

“There’s no one in this room that doesn’t understand that the sooner you are prepared the safer you will be,” he told the Council.

The development of DWR’s emergency plan is important to the Council because the Delta Reform Act of 2009 mandates that it is the policy of the state to “reduce risks to people, property, and state interests in the Delta by effective emergency preparedness, appropriate land uses, and investments in flood protection” (§ 85020g).

quoteDWR’s Delta Flood Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery Program consists of three components: development of DWR’s Delta response and recovery plan; coordination of DWR’s plan with other Delta flood emergency response agencies; and design and implementation of flood emergency response facilities within the Delta.

DWR received $80 million in bond funding for flood emergency preparedness that is used to fund the program. The majority of that funding will be used to build new water-side emergency facilities.

“We have a few stellar locations in mind,” Shaw said.

DWR is developing new modeling software that will allow it to better analyze a disaster against a set of scenarios resulting in a strategic plan of action.

“With the new modeling concept we can examine thousands of scenarios to develop the best strategies possible,” said Shaw. “It’ll say, ‘here’s our plan, here’s what it will cost, and here’s how long it will take.’”

Council Chair Phil Isenberg asked if there was a plan in place to repair or restore the current Delta export system from effects of a multiple levee failure disaster.

Shaw said the Emergency Program is intended to respond to Delta flood emergencies or levee failures and does not contain details on how to operate or restore the state’s water export system.

Joe Grindstaff, the Council’s executive officer, urged DWR to consider adding to its Program a section on how to manage and protect the state’s water export system in response to massive salinity intrusion caused by a multiple levee failure.

“It’s possible that we could have a multiple levee failure,” Grindstaff said. “With quick action you could prevent salinity intrusion with coordination from upstream agencies who could release more water into the Delta. You might not have enough time to get an executive order in place that gives the governor the authority to make reservoir releases.”


The Department of Water Resources’ flood operations branch is developing a program to guide the Department’s actions in the event of a Delta emergency or levee failure. DWR presented an update on the program to the Council during a recent meeting.

Coequal goals

The Delta Stewardship Council was created in legislation to achieve the state mandated coequal goals for the Delta. "'Coequal goals' means the two goals of providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Delta ecosystem. The coequal goals shall be achieved in a manner that protects and enhances the unique cultural, recreational, natural resource, and agricultural values of the Delta as an evolving place." (CA Water Code §85054)