SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Inspections by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District rated maintenance of 10 levee systems in rural Merced and Madera counties unacceptable, and gave a minimally acceptable maintenance rating to one additional Merced County levee system.
The Sacramento District conducted routine inspection of the 11 levee systems between March 2011 and September 2012. Final reports were presented to the Central Valley Flood Protection Board during board meetings March 22, 2013 and April 5, 2013. The most serious deficiencies throughout the systems were erosion, rodent control, slope stability and encroachments. Unacceptable vegetation was noted during the inspections, but in none of the 11 systems did vegetation result in an overall unacceptable rating.
“Levee inspections are all about making sure that a levee can reliably do what we expect it to,” said Meegan Nagy, Sacramento District levee safety program manager. “Our findings help the agencies that own and maintain these levees prioritize levee fixes – and help the public understand their flood risk and make informed decisions about their safety.”
Inspection findings also determine levee systems’ continued eligibility for the Corps’ rehabilitation and inspection program, the Corps’ authority to provide federal assistance for flood fighting and repairing levees damaged by floods or storms. Systems rated unacceptable were found not to meet Corps levee safety criteria and are ineligible for federal aid in repairing flood or storm damage to levees until their deficiencies are corrected.
"When our levees were inspected, our resources were devoted to actively flood fighting and patrolling levees in other areas," said Reggie Hill, Lower San Joaquin Levee District secretary-manager. "We will accomplish the needed tasks before the next flood season as we work toward regaining active status as soon as possible."
“The Central Valley Flood Protection Board, Lower San Joaquin Levee District and Madera County are continuing to work collaboratively to resolve encroachment and maintenance issues with a goal of achieving an acceptable rating on all the levee systems,” said Len Marino, chief engineer for the Central Valley Flood Protection Board. “The board and our local maintaining agency partners share a common commitment to public safety and flood risk reduction.”
The Corps will continue to provide flood fighting assistance for all six systems, regardless of their status. When the maintenance problems have been corrected, the levee maintaining agencies may request a re-inspection of the levee systems, and regain active status in the program if they’ve been adequately addressed.
Of the more than 6,500 miles of levees in the Central Valley, about 1,760 are in the Corps’ Levee Safety Program. Annual inspections of California levees sponsored by the Central Valley Flood Protection Board are conducted mostly by the California Department of Water Resources, with the Corps inspecting 10 percent of those levees annually for quality assurance. The Corps does not own or maintain any levees in the Central Valley, but continues to work with the board and local agencies to complete levee improvement projects and reduce flood risk throughout the valley.