By Elena Lee Reeder & Kevin L. King | Guest Commentary
(OPINION) – The Sacramento region’s flood crisis has been big national news. Coverage has focused on destruction, closed streets, the loss of property and life, and the ‘silver lining that the storms have fed our depleted California reservoirs.’
But there’s another silver lining – the storms are a wake-up call for a public that has been lulled into a false sense of security by the long periods of drought California routinely experiences. Nevertheless, for those responsible for flood protection, we affirmatively know, it’s not a matter of if, but when, we will experience a massive flood.
The barrage of storms since New Year’s Eve has altered a somewhat abstract concept into a harsh reality – the true transformative power of wind and water.
If Reclamation District No. 1000’s levees fail, the City of Sacramento, the State Capitol, and the surrounding areas of Natomas, La Rivera, Arden-Arcade, Del Paso, Land Park, South Land Park, Oak Park, West Sacramento, Greenhaven, College/Glen, Northgate, Rosemont, and Rancho Cordova would suffer tremendously from the colossal devastation of flooding.
This is of grave concern for RD1000, which since 1911 has protected the public and property for the greater Sacramento region. We maintain eight massive pump stations to export stormwater from our neighborhoods into surrounding river systems and more than 42 miles of exterior levees to safeguard our basin from being overtaken by the swollen rivers of the Sacramento, American and Feather watersheds.
We have an action oriented plan for a flood safe future for Natomas and have been working tirelessly for more than two and a half years to educate the public, implement necessary repair programs, and work with local, state, and federal officials to prepare for this and future weather events. Our crews have been working around the clock inspecting levees and pumps and making the vital repairs to keep our families and communities safe.
As we get through future storms, here are four things we would like every resident, business owner, and government official to consider:
● The Natomas Basin is the 2nd most dangerous flood threat after New Orleans.Natomas ranks second to New Orleans with the potential for catastrophic flooding and loss of life.
● Expect More Extreme Storms. Scientists have predicted that our changing climate will result in stronger weather patterns and a “Mega Storm” could be destined to slam California in the coming years.
● Strong Levees are Not Enough. Imagine that the levees form a giant bathtub. At some point, if you don’t get the water down the drain, you are going to flood the bathroom. This is what recently happened in New Orleans. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans had fortified its levee system but failed to upgrade pumps, drainage systems, backup power supplies, and other infrastructure needs. Along came Hurricane Ida, which exposed this vulnerability; the storm caused $65 billion in property damage and cost at least 26 people their lives.
● The Natomas Basin is on Borrowed Time. RD 1000 is now the most urbanized reclamation district in California. Some of the pumps we are using are from the 1910s. The District has not had a rate increase in 30 years. Repairing and replacing pumps, pipes, backup power, monitoring systems, and other infrastructure have been deferred for too long, which is why RD1000 is seeking approval from those in its service area to fund critical flood protection needs.
RD1000 levees have held strong, our crews are working tirelessly, and we are thankful for the responsiveness from the federal, state, county, and city officials and our local utility companies, who understand the severity of our situation.
We cannot prevent storms, but together, we can prevent a flood disaster. If you see weakened levees or have flooding issues, please call 3-1-1.
Elena Lee Reeder is President of the Board of Trustees for Reclamation District No. 1000.
Kevin L. King is General Manager for Reclamation District No. 1000.