For the people of Yuba County, reducing the risk of flooding was the single most important reason for the creation of Yuba Water Agency in 1959. Since its formation, the agency has led the local effort with state and federal agencies, Congress and others to increase public safety by reducing the risk of catastrophic flooding.
The construction of New Bullards Bar Dam and Reservoir in 1970 was an essential step in the long-term and continuing effort to address this risk. This state-of-the-art facility is managed to contain a minimum of 170,000 acre-feet of flood flows during the storm season.
Yuba County's Flood Risk
Yuba County’s flood risk is due to its proximity to the Yuba, Feather and Bear rivers. Hydraulic mining debris, a result of the region's Gold Rush legacy, has also contributed to the region’s flood risk by raising riverbeds and altering flows. Poorly constructed levees built by early settlers have also compounded flood risk. The lasting and significant social, economic and environmental consequences of catastrophic floods that hit the region in 1955, 1986 and 1997 are still felt today and reinforced the need for bold investments in long-term flood risk reduction projects.
Flood Management Goals and Investments
Yuba Water’s flood management program has several overarching goals:
- Secure a 200-year level of protection for Yuba County’s urban areas and a 100-year level of protection for agricultural areas.
- Identify the status of all current and ongoing flood risk reduction projects in Yuba County and explore opportunities to coordinate and unify smaller improvement projects for increased efficiency.
- Develop a long-term plan to identify, prioritize and complete projects and maintenance to achieve and maintain reduced flood risk that meets and exceeds state and federal levels into the future.
To achieve these goals, Yuba Water provides extensive technical, policy and financial support to local agencies and regional projects, as well as staff time and infrastructure improvements to our dams. Through these efforts, Yuba Water has committed well over $50 million to help leverage more than $600 million in state and federal funding for levee repairs and other multi-benefit projects to reduce flooding in the area.
Yuba Water continues to pay approximately $5.5 million annually in bond debt to cover both the agency and Yuba County’s local cost-share for completed levee work, including the Feather and Bear River setback levees, and will continue to do so through 2038. Yuba Water has also made significant contributions to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Marysville Ring Levee project and to the Three Rivers Levee Improvement Authority for work at the Yuba Goldfields, both critical projects for achieving a 200-year level of protection for southern Yuba County.
Thanks to these investments, Yuba County’s urban flood-prone areas are on-track to be among the best protected in California.