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Home » News/Events » The Journal » August 2014 » Mid-San Joaquin River Flood Plan Nears Completion

Mid-San Joaquin River Flood Plan Nears Completion

By Julie Rentner, Director of Special Projects and Secretary for Reclamation District 2092

Above: In locations such as the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge and Dos Rios Ranch, flooding can provide benefits to wildlife including salmon and waterbirds. The Mid San Joaquin River Regional Flood Management Plan highlights opportunities to expand such projects to benefit local and state-wide interests.

September marks the targeted completion of the Regional Flood Management Plan for the Mid San Joaquin River Region. Over the past 20 months, Reclamation District 2092 (Dos Rios) and project partner River Partners have worked with a talented consultant team, dedicated county staff, some of the finest flood engineers in the State, representatives from every resource management agency in the Central Valley, and a diverse group of local and regional stakeholders to develop a shared shared vision for a flood safe region.

Through 8 public workshops, 12 focused briefings, and countless site visits and small meetings with local interests, the region has identified, described and prioritized 37 projects totaling over $330 million that are necessary to protect people, property and the environment from flood damages in Stanislaus County. Sowhat happens next?

Perhaps you’ve heard about ‘Integrated Water Management’ – this is a collaborative approach to water management that attempts to consider all aspects of water management in a region, from water supply and flood control to water quality and wildlife habitat. The Department of Water Resources has invested heavily in locally-based integrated water planning, hoping that the investment will help the State better understand local needs and local acceptability for state-interest projects. The worst outcome from this investment is when the plan is done and it gets put on the shelf, never to be seen or heard from again. Thankfully, the regional stakeholders in the Mid San Joaquin River Region agree, and are committed to continued collaboration to turn our flood management plan into a reality.

Beginning in early 2015, RD 2092 hopes to garner additional funding to continue working with stakeholders for 2 more years to bolster plan-oriented regional objectives:

    • Emergency Response capacity and planning, including hosting a flood emergency “pre-season” meeting in Stanislaus County on October 2 at 9:30am (check www.midsjrfloodplan.org for details);
    • Operations and Maintenance solutions, including exploring the development of a regional maintenance working group or partnership to share resources, expertise, and perhaps even funding;
    • Coordination with state-level planning efforts including Central Valley Flood Protection Planning, Integrated Water Management Planning, recovery actions for threatened and endangered species, and many others;
    • Development of project descriptions for regional projects to help them meet the mandate of Multi-Benefit planning: to meet the flood management and environmental enhancement needs of the river, while supporting other public benefit objectives as much as possible;
    • Institutional support and solutions for institutional barriers to effective flood control, including attempts to resolve some of the perceived regulatory conflicts between flood management and environmental enhancement and efforts to build capacity within local maintaining agencies to fulfill their flood management and permitting obligations; and
    • Other issues identified in the plan.

The mid San Joaquin River regional flood management planning effort can already point to on-the-ground successes in regional demonstration projects, such as the Three Amigos and Dos Rios Ranch/ Hidden Valley Ranch projects. River Partners’ 2013 acquisition of the 497-acre Hidden Valley Ranch for wildlife habitat enhancement and flood control built upon state and federal investment totaling over $80m in 15 years to expand floodways that provide environmental enhancement to the region. Paired with Dos Rios Ranch and the adjacent San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge (which encompasses the Three Amigos non-structural flood control project), over 10,000 acres of floodplains are being managed in Stanislaus County for wildlife habitat, flood control, recreation, water supply, and water quality improvement.

We hope to work with agency partners at the US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Bureau of Reclamation, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, California Wildlife Conservation Board, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, California Department of Water Resources, California Natural Resources Agency, our NGO and local partners, and many others to share the lessons learned at these demonstration projects and to develop similar partnership-driven, large-scale environmental enhancement projects throughout California.

As the drought situation tightens our belts on water conservation, we hope that more stakeholders will join the effort to develop regionally-acceptable water management solutions in order to make real progress fixing the broken water system in California. To learn more about these model multi-benefit projects, please visit www.multibenefitproject.org.

The above article originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of the River Partners Journal.