Yuba Water OKs $9M grant for levee improvements

Nov. 3—In an effort to help reduce the risks of flooding and the ongoing effects of climate change in south Yuba County, the Yuba Water Agency Board of Directors on Tuesday unanimously approved a $9 million grant to support a series of improvements.

The funds, granted to the Three Rivers Levee Improvement Authority (TRLIA), are intended to be leveraged as a local match against state and federal funds for additional flood risk reduction efforts in the southern portion of the county.

"As the Three Rivers Levee Improvement Authority (TRLIA) is scaling down its operation in South Yuba County, it has been working with Yuba Water, Yuba County and RD 784 to finalize and close the State of California Proposition 1E source funding that made the levee projects in South Yuba County possible," according to a Yuba Water staff report. "However, several projects remain to expand on the levee work in South Yuba County that are identified in Yuba Water's Comprehensive Flood Management Plan, which is expected to be finalized over the next few months. Two of those projects are the Climate Resiliency project and the Goldfields Multi-Benefit Project."

Yuba Water officials said the approved funding "could potentially leverage" state and federal dollars for a total investment of $41.6 million for the complete design and implementation of the Climate Resiliency project. The funding also will allow TRLIA to prepare a feasibility study for a multi-benefit project in an area of the lower Yuba River known as the Goldfields, officials said.

TRLIA will combine the $9 million in grant funding with about $3 million in state funds from the Disaster Preparedness and Flood Protection Bond Act of 2006 (Proposition 1E) to complete the design work and feasibility study, and plans to pursue the remaining construction costs from the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities grant program, Yuba Water officials said.

"Reducing flood risk for the people of Yuba County is not just one of Yuba Water's core mission areas, it is foundational for our communities to continue to grow and thrive," Yuba Water Agency Board Chairman Gary Bradford said in a statement. "Yuba Water is happy to support this work to continue to reduce flood risk in Yuba County and the broader region."

The Climate Resiliency project is expected to create a "uniform level of protection for Plumas Lake, Arboga, Linda and Olivehurst," officials said. Those areas are currently certified at the 200-year level of protection for the state.

"The Climate Resiliency project is really just a fancy term for improving the levees in south Yuba County ... from 200- to 300-year standards," Ryan McNally, the director of water resources and flood risk reduction for Yuba Water Agency, said during Tuesday's meeting.

The project will seek to increase that level to as high as a 500-year level of flood protection when combined with Yuba Water's planned Atmospheric River Control Spillway at New Bullards Bar Dam, officials said. McNally said that possible 500-year protection would be "unprecedented" in the state of California.

"A 200-year level of flood protection is the state's current standard in the urban areas of the Central Valley and means there is a 1-in-200 or half of a percent chance in any given year that a storm more powerful than the system is designed to handle will come along. A 500-year level of protection would be the highest in the state," officials said.

The planned Goldfields Multi-Benefit Project feasibility study will examine alternative solutions to replace an embankment in the Goldfields.

"The existing embankment is in an area that is not a permanent solution but is under a current 10-year license agreement," officials said. "The Goldfields Multi-Benefit Project Feasibility Study will seek to define alternative permanent solutions to reduce flood risk for South Yuba County."

During Tuesday's board of directors meeting, Director Brent Hastey highlighted the impact flood protection has had on the southern part of the county.

"I just want to say thank you. Having lived through floods ... the reality is this is amazing stuff that this agency has done since 1986. I thank the county, the agencies ... and everybody that's been working on south Yuba County for the protection of the citizens of the county is really unprecedented. ... The agency has done miraculous work," Hastey said.