- January 2015 Central Valley Flood Protection Plan Draft Conservation Strategy
As the California Department of Water Resources works toward a 2017 update of its Central Valley Flood Protection Plan, an associated Conservation Strategy, upcoming Basin-wide Feasibility Studies and the plan itself all represent major planning initiatives with significant potential consequences for affected farming communities.
Senate Bill 5 (Machado, 2007) required the Department of Water Resources to prepare the 2012 Central Valley Flood Protection Plan. The CVFPP identified potential modifications to improve performance of California’s state-federal network of project levees, spanning the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers from Redding to Fresno. At the same time, SB 5 required the department to consider enhancements to achieve multiple benefits, including structural as well as nonstructural ways to achieve improved ecosystem functions (for example, traditional structural approaches such levees, weirs and dams, as well as nonstructural approaches such as levee setbacks, overflow areas, multi-use floodways and the like).
Responding to this mandate, the CVFPP proposed creation of up to 10,000 acres of permanent new habitat within the 35,000 to 40,000-acre footprint of a proposed expansion of the existing Sacramento Valley Sutter and Yolo bypass system. In addition, the 2012 CVFPP included an initial Conservation Framework.
The department’s January 2015 Draft Conservation Strategy builds and significantly expands on the 2012 CVFPP and Conservation Framework documents, detailing wetland and riparian habitat objectives amounting to some 20,000 acres in the Sacramento River and Feather River basins, and some 9,000 acres along the San Joaquin River. Conservation Strategy maps (PDF, 79 KB) for the Upper Sacramento, Feather River, Lower Sacramento, Upper San Joaquin and Lower San Joaquin River regions show Restoration Opportunity Areas within adjacent corridor areas along existing bypasses and major river reaches.
A summary breakdown(PDF, 1,549 KB) of the total acres of proposed levee setbacks and bypass expansions, existing habitat, proposed permanent habitat and proposed floodplain agriculture is summarized in a series of tables. Conservation Strategy information used to arrive at these totals is detailed in a series of spreadsheets prepared by the California Farm Bureau Federation and viewable below.
- Sacramento Valley Existing Habitat Conditions
- Upper Sacramento River Region Existing Habitat Conditions
- Feather River Region Existing Habitat Conditions
- Lower Sacramento River Region Existing Habitat Conditions
- Sacramento Valley Habitat Needs, Opportunities, and Objectives
- Upper Sacramento River Region Habitat Needs, Opportunities and Objectives
- Feather River Region Habitat Needs, Opportunities and Objectives
- Lower Sacramento River Region Habitat Needs, Opportunities and Objectives
- Sacramento Valley Fish Passage Needs, Opportunities and Objectives
- Sacramento Valley Bank and Levee Conditions Summary
- San Joaquin River Existing Habitat Conditions
- Upper San Joaquin River Region Existing Habitat Conditions
- Lower San Joaquin River Region Existing Habitat Conditions
- San Joaquin River Habitat Needs, Opportunities and Objectives
- Upper San Joaquin River Region Habitat Needs, Opportunities and Objectives
- Lower San Joaquin River Region Habitat Needs, Opportunities and Objectives
- San Joaquin River Fish Passage Needs, Opportunities and Objectives
- San Joaquin River Bank and Levee Conditions Summary
Habitat acreages identified in the department’s Draft Conservation Strategy increased the 10,000 acres originally identified in the 2012 CVFPP roughly three-fold. The CVFPP’s proposed 10,000 acres in the Sacramento Valley have doubled to 20,000 acres. Added to this, the department’s Draft Conservation Strategy proposes 9,000 acres of new habitat enhancements along the San Joaquin River.
Total acreages for setbacks and proposed habitat areas combined increases the overall footprint to some 35,000 acres in the Sacramento Valley and some 15,000 acres along the San Joaquin River, including some 5,000 acres of proposed wildlife-friendly agriculture on either side.
At the same time, the Draft Conservation Strategy identifies large areas of already existing habitat, including 89,000 acres of the existing riparian and marsh habitats in the Sacramento Valley and 33,000 acres in the San Joaquin Valley. The Draft Conservation Strategy lists existing floodplain inundation habitat in the Sacramento Valley at 44,000 acres and 13,100 acres in the San Joaquin Valley.
With existing agricultural lands as the dominant feature in large rural areas of the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys, agriculture would be greatly impacted by the department’s proposed plan. Despite this, the Draft Conservation Strategy habitat objectives currently count only wildlife-friendly agriculture in the floodplains. [Embed link to CS-04 CVFPP Draft Conservation Strategy, Specific Objectives & Practices Including Floodplain Ag & Inundation] Direct or incidental habitat benefits of conventional farming methods and lands are not counted.
Similarly, the Draft Conservation Strategy includes little or no consideration of the impacts of major setbacks, weir modifications and proposed seasonal inundation on private landowners and businesses, local economies and communities, existing and future farm practices, existing crop mixes and long-term private investments, or existing drainage and irrigation and water infrastructures systems.
Habitat acreages in the Draft Conservation Strategy focus only on what might be physically possible in terms of habitat restoration. The acreages reflect what the Conservation Strategy preparers consider necessary to contribute to recovery of a variety of listed species and sensitive species or species of concern in relation to a variety of proposed major Central Valley Flood Protection Plan flood improvements. These habitat objectives do not consider economic or engineering feasibility, costs or financing, land use impacts, local acceptability or many other relevant concerns.
Conservation objectives detailed in a Final Conservation Strategy to follow the Draft Conservation Strategy will be informed by cost-benefit and engineering studies to be detailed in Sacramento and San Joaquin river basin-wide feasibility studies to be prepared during the coming two years by the Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Information regarding projects identified in the basin-wide feasibility studies, conservation objectives in a Final Conservation Strategy, and local priorities identified in six Regional Flood Management Plans, will be incorporated in an update of the 2012 Central Valley Flood Protection Plan. This larger Flood Plan Update must in turn be approved and adopted by the Central Valley Flood Protection Board in 2017.
A 60-day public comment period on the Draft Conservation Strategy will begin officially with the release of several remaining technical appendices to the main document. The Draft Conservation Strategy, along with information regarding submission of public comments, can be seen here.
- Regional Planning and Implementation Phases of the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan
In 2012, the Central Valley Flood Protection Board adopted a Final Central Valley Board Protection Plan. This was the culmination of six months of deliberations on a Draft Flood Plan prepared by the California Department of Water Resources.
The final Flood Plan includes concept-level proposals to widen the Sutter and Yolo Bypasses, to restore thousands of acres of riparian habitat in the floodplains, to add a new bypass in the South Delta, and to purchase easements for possible seasonal flooding of lands outside of the levees. (See Overview of Issue below.)
As a follow-on to the statewide plan, local planning efforts begun in 2013 will result in regional plans in each of six Central Valley planning areas.
A map of the six regional planning areas can be seen here:
(PDF, 4.7 MB)
Regional planning lead agency and website information for the six regions and regional entities leading the planning efforts are:
Upper and Mid-Sacramento Region
Reclamation District 108
Feather River Region
Sutter-Butte Flood Control Agency / Three Levees Levee Improvements Authority
Lower Sacramento/Delta North Region
West Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency
Lower Sacramento/Delta South
San Joaquin Area Flood Control Agency
Mid-San Joaquin Region
Reclamation District 2092 (River Partners) / County of Stanislaus
Upper San Joaquin Region
Lower San Joaquin Levee District / San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Water Authority
The purpose of regional planning in 2013 and beyond is to identify priority regional projects for incorporation into two large "Basinwide Feasibility Studies." Expected to be completed around 2016, these feasibility studies will deal with major Flood Plan system elements, including proposed bypass expansions and levee setbacks in the Sacramento and San Joaquin River Basins.
Regional planning within the five regions will occur in parallel with separate Basinwide Feasibility Study efforts led by DWR and the Army Corps of Engineers. To be completed around 2016, these Basinwide Feasibility Studies will focus on major system-wide elements, including proposed bypass expansions and setbacks, and will integrate select local projects and recommendations identified in Regional Planning. In addition, DWR will be leading development of a separate Central Valley Flood System Conservation Strategy, focusing on regional habitat and species mitigation components of plan implementation.
Locally developed regional plans and the state-federal basinwide feasibility plans will in turn be used for development of an eventual 2017 Update of the Central Valley Flood Management Plan.
Local agricultural interests are encouraged to stay informed of the regional planning efforts in their areas by staying in touch with their county Farm Bureaus, reclamation districts, elected representatives and local water management agencies.
Additional information and periodic updates on the regional planning and implementation phases of DWR Flood Plan process will be provided on this website. Visit the Flood Board's website (www.cvfpb.ca.gov), and the department's Central Valley Flood Management Plan and Regional Flood Management Planning websites (wwwdwr.water.ca.gov/cvfmp and wwwdwr.water.ca.gov/cvfmp/regionalplan) for updates from these groups.
Overview of Issues
Central Valley Flood Protection Plan
The state of California (through the Department of Water Resources and the Central Valley Flood Protection Board) has prepared a Central Valley Flood Protection Plan. Required by legislation passed in 2007, the Flood Plan is intended to guide an estimated $14 billion to $17 billion of investment in the Central Valley state-federal flood system during a 20-to-25-year period.
A major feature of the long-term Flood Plan is the creation of a proposed 40,000 acres of new flood space or system capacity, by means of "setback levees" and "bypass expansions" on lands that are mostly now farmland. Of this approximately 40,000-acre footprint, the Draft Flood Plan indicates that 25 percent (about 10,000 acres) would become permanent habitat. According to the Draft Plan, the remaining 75 percent (about 30,000 acres) would remain farmable, subject to flood easements and seasonal flooding, similar to farming in the existing bypasses today.
In addition to these 40,000 acres of habitat and 10,000 restored habitat in new or existing flood bypass areas, the plan also proposed to modify levees and acquire flood easements an overlapping 50,000-75,000 acres. The purpose of these easements would be to allow lands in agricultural and rural areas to provide additional flood protection to urban areas downstream and to function as "transitional storage" by temporarily receiving excess flood waters. Specifically, the plan proposes creating the equivalent of 200,000 acre-feet of "transitional storage" in the Sacramento Valley, and 100,000 acre-feet in the San Joaquin River system.
In addition to 10,000 acres of restored habitat, new bypass and setbacks on 40,000 acres of acquisition, and 50,000-75,000 acres, the Flood Plan also proposes to place 70,000 to 115,000 acres of Central Valley land under agricultural conservation easement. While it seems these lands would continue to be farmed, it is presently unclear what types of restrictions would apply.
The footprint and rough locations of the proposed setback and bypass expansion features are shown in yellow, in a map (PDF, 2.3 MB) from the Flood Plan.
Elements of the Flood Plan could have major implications for farmers and ranchers in the Sacramento Valley and require meaningful involvement from affected communities and individuals. Farm Bureau, through this webpage and other efforts, will work to inform landowners and other affected people in the Sacramento Valley so that this involvement can occur.
Background information, pertinent documents, links, and periodic updates will be posted on this webpage for individuals interested in weighing in on the Flood Plan for their local communities and private agricultural operations.
FEMA National Flood Insurance Program Legislative Effort
Farm Bureau is working with a coalition toward legislative reform of the Federal Emergency Management Agency National Flood Insurance Program, to create a special designation for rural and agricultural areas. The need for such reform can be briefly summarized as follows:
As result of the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans, FEMA is engaged in a nationwide effort to remap floodplain zones throughout the United States. Based on mapped floodplain zones, FEMA has authority to "decertify" levees that do not meet specified minimum protective standards. Rural and agricultural levees typically do not meet heightened FEMA protective standards for levees.
Property owners in areas where levees have been decertified must maintain federally subsidized flood insurance through the FEMA-administered National Flood Insurance Program—and building permits for new structures, including both residential and agricultural structures and facilities, may be delayed or denied.
For more information on this issue, see coverage in Ag Alert, as well as other links and updates to be periodically posted on this page.
Key Documents and Links Related to Central Valley Issues and Processes
- California Farm Bureau Jun. 1, 2012, Comments on CVFPB 6/1/12 Draft Adoption Resolution (PDF, 84 KB)
- California Farm Bureau Apr. 20, 2012, Comments on the Public Draft 2012 Central Valley Flood Protection Plan (PDF, 238 KB)
- California Farm Bureau Apr. 20, 2012, Comments on the March 2012 CVFPP DPEIR (PDF, 200 KB)
- California Farm Bureau Apr. 11, 2012, Comments on Public Draft 2012 Central Valley Flood Protection Plan (PDF, 75 KB)
- California Farm Bureau Feb. 24, 2012, Comments on the Public Draft 2012 Central Valley Flood Protection Plan (PDF, 264 KB)
- Dec. 30, 2011, Draft Central Valley Flood Protection Plan
- Central Valley Flood Plan Setback and Bypass Expansion Map (PDF, 2.3 MB)
- October 2011 "Rural Flood Protection in the Sacramento Valley" Issue Paper (prepared and transmitted to the Department of Water Resources by the Sacramento Valley Flood Control Action Work Group) (PDF, 2 MB)
- California Farm Bureau Nov. 15, 2011, Comments on DWR Working Draft Central Valley Flood Protection Plan (PDF, 219 KB)
- Legislation – Senate Bill No. 5 (PDF, 122 KB)
- Central Valley Flood Protection Board
- Department of Water Resources Central Valley Flood Management Planning Program
- Flood Plan Excerpts of Interest
Proposed Bypass Expansion and Levee Setback Areas By County
A map of proposed bypass and setback areas is shown below. For comparison, Google Earth view satellite images of potentially affected areas are also provided.
(PDF, 2.3 MB)
*Links provided show the approximate locations, by county, of the bypass and setback areas shown in DWR's "Major Capital Improvements" map (PDF, 2.3 MB).
- Butte County/Colusa County
- CVFPP Proposed Cherokee Canal Bypass Area
- Sutter County/Sacramento County
- CVFPP Proposed Sutter Causeway Expansion, Reach 1, Yuba City/Highway 20 to Trowbridge
- CVFPP Proposed Sutter Bypass Expansion Reach 2, Trowbridge to Fremont Weir/Sacramento International Airport
- Sacramento County/Yolo County
- CVFPP Proposed Yolo Bypass Expansion Reach 1, Fremont Weir to Putah Creek
- Yolo County
- CVFPP Proposed Yolo Bypass Expansion Reach 2, Putah Creek to Stair Step Levee/Liberty Island
- Yolo County/Solano County
- CVFPP Proposed Yolo Bypass Expansion Reach 3, Yolano to Rio Vista/Hastings Tract, Egbert Tract
- San Joaquin County
- CVFPP Proposed South Delta Bypass Expansion (Stewart Tract, Pescadero District & Paradise Junction)
- Flood plan impact on farmland continues to evolve (Feb. 25, 2015)
- Flood plan could require more land as habitat (Feb. 4, 2015)
- Flood protection efforts shift to local, regional groups (Dec. 5, 2012)
- Valley flood plan to be adopted; next phase begins (June 27, 2012)
- Commentary: Public must stay involved in Central Valley flood planning (May 2, 2012)
- At hearings, farmers express concerns about flood plan (Apr. 11, 2012)
- Commentary: Board needs to hear about flood plan impact on farms (Feb. 22, 2012)
- Draft flood plan includes some farmland losses (Feb. 1, 2012)
- Remapped flood zones mean new restrictions (Nov. 23, 2011)