CVIFMS -- A unified vision for water and ecosystem studies in California’s Central Valley

Published Jan. 5, 2016
Synergy between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, California Department of Water Resources and local government leaders is powering a unified vision to lower flood risk, restore ecosystems and aid water conservation in California’s Central Valley.

Despite its unwieldy title, the Central Valley Integrated Flood Management Study has a razor-sharp focus: start with existing data from previous studies and existing requests (authorities) from Congress and address problems at the watershed level in order to produce systemwide improvements within the Sacramento River Basin.

“CVIFMS is the federal companion to DWR’s 2012 Central Valley Flood Protection Plan,” said Rhiannon Kucharski, lead planner for the Corps. “We’re riding the wave of research momentum that began with the Sacramento River and San Joaquin River Basins Comprehensive Study of 2002 and continued with several related studies in the Central Valley.”

The Corps released a draft watershed plan Dec. 9, 2015, for an informal public review through Jan. 15, 2016. The same document is also undergoing agency technical review and South Pacific Division planning and policy review.

For purposes of the study, the Sacramento River watershed was divided into 50 opportunity areas. Within each area, possible measures were evaluated for efficiency in meeting flood risk management, ecosystem restoration and water supply objectives, and for cost effectiveness and policy compliance.

Four near-term studies have been identified as having tremendous potential:
• examine inland effects of climate change;
• San Joaquin River watershed study (CVIFMS Part II);
• Central Valley reservoir re-operation study; and
• Middle and Upper Sacramento River Basin study.

The Central Valley re-operation study would be a comprehensive investigation to optimize operation of reservoirs within the entire Central Valley to maximum benefits in flood risk management, ecosystem restoration and water supply, incorporating weather forecasts and climate change analysis.

“The re-operation study is especially appealing, since it has the potential to improve flood risk management and water conservation without new infrastructure investments,” said Kucharski.

Mid- to long-term studies suggested by CVIFMS include:
• non-structural flood plain management services;
• Upper American River and tributaries study; and
• ecosystem restoration studies under continuing authorities or tribal partnerships.

A final watershed plan is scheduled to be released by mid-March 2016, completing the initial high-level analysis before future, more-focused studies can identify specific projects.

“CVIFMS provides the compass to understand which direction we’re going, but future studies will more clearly chart the path to implement some of the opportunities we’ve identified,” said Kucharski.

The goal is for local government and agencies to see where the Corps is going and want to help pave the path to making some of the projects a reality.