Billions more needed to fix Delta levees

It’s an expensive problem Californians have all but ignored for decades: The ever-deteriorating, 150-year-old patched-together network of levees built to contain the California Delta.

With about a million Californians now living smack-dab in flood plains — many behind levees designed to protect farms, not homes, business and schools — the State has plans to shore up the aging flood-control system, hopefully before disaster strikes.

The State has just issued yet another dire warning on the condition of the levees, saying $17 billion is needed to bring hundreds of miles of substandard levees up to flood-control standards.

In a statewide flood plan released last week, the Department of Water Resources said about half of the 300 miles of urban levees in the Delta do not meet modern standards, and up to 60 percent of non-urban levees have a high risk of failure.

State engineer Mike Mierzwa told The AP:

“… the flood management system in the valley is dated and is not functioning in ways it was designed. We have people living behind levees which were meant to protect farmland.”

The explosion of homes in along Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers in the Central Valley means levees now protect 1 million people and about $69 billion in homes and property.

In 2006, after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf coast, California voters approved $5 billion for statewide flood control projects. This flood plan from the state calls for up to $12 billion more for repairs and investments, with $6 billion for projects in urban areas.