Today, the Yuba Water Agency Board of Directors received an in-depth presentation on the agency’s recently-completed Flood Risk Management Plan, which outlines and prioritizes future flood risk reduction projects and efforts.
”This plan is about being more proactive in how we tackle flood risk challenges,” said Ryan McNally, Yuba Water’s director of water resources and flood risk reduction. “In the past, the significant flood events we’ve faced have shaped our plans, reactively. We want to be more intentional moving forward.”
The new plan is a result of a year-long study to identify actions that Yuba Water should take to further reduce the risk of catastrophic flooding for Yuba County and other downstream communities. The four overarching goals of the plan are to reduce flood risk to the lowest level practicable, increase the flexibility and resilience of flood control facilities and operations, increase Yuba Water’s local partners’ capacity for levee maintenance and emergency response capability, and demonstrate proactive environmental stewardship.
The process began with a detailed review of all existing flood risk management studies and plans, as well as the agency’s own strategic plan. There was also significant input from Yuba Water staff and its partners about all of the flood risk reduction work that has been done and what work remains.
A multitude of measures were identified and ranked based on four criteria: readiness, support of overarching goals, potential impacts and acceptability. 14 total efforts were then identified as recommendations for the best efforts to reduce flood risk even further in the future.
“We’ve done so much to reduce flood risk, but we’re never going to be done with flood work in Yuba County, because the risk will always be there,” said McNally. “So, we’ll always be looking for the next best way to continue to reduce our flood risk.”
The major project recommendations include a planned second spillway at New Bullards Bar Dam that would offer more flexibility to release water before large, threatening storms, while there is still plenty of capacity downstream. The Atmospheric River Control Spillway, or ARC Spillway, is in the final stages of design and Yuba Water is actively seeking funding partners for this project that has significant regional benefits.
Forecast-Informed Reservoir Operations was also identified as a top priority, which will help reduce catastrophic flood risk and improve public safety by using improved weather forecasts to determine the optimal releases from New Bullards Bar Dam in advance of threatening storms. Currently, dam operators are required to keep the reservoir at a significantly reduced water level during storm seasons, ensuring space to handle possible storms, regardless of the forecast. FIRO is currently being developed with the California Department of Water Resources, UC San Diego Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and others.
The plan also identifies priority levee modifications, maintenance projects and other efforts that can significantly improve the area’s readiness and reduce flood risk in Yuba County and the surrounding region. The detailed plan can be found at yubawater.org.
As part of the presentation, Yuba Water introduced a new infographic demonstrating just how frequently the Yuba River sees high flows, and just how high those flows can get.
“It’s easy for people to forget in the dry years just how often we see high flows,” said Board Director Don Blaser, who is also a county supervisor that oversees the Marysville area. “These upcoming storms over the next couple of weeks may very well serve as a strong reminder of the importance of and need for this continued focus to reduce flood risk.”