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A Flood Protection Plan for the Long Haul

By: Kevin L. King          March 3, 2023


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When referring to catastrophic rainstorms and floods, you will often hear them being defined as a one-hundred-year flood or levees that offer 100-year flood protection.

What does this mean, exactly?

A good way to think of it, is that a ­­one-hundred-year flood is a flood event with a 1% probability of occurring or being exceeded in any given year. The 100-year flood is also called the 1% flood since its annual exceedance probability is 1%.

We saw the widespread devastation when pumps and levees failed in New Orleans and, more recently, in South Sacramento County. The recent Sacramento levee breaks and massive flooding made international news. The US Army Corps. of Engineers has designated Sacramento as one of the most at-risk areas in the United States for flooding.

For Reclamation District No. 1000 (RD1000), our planning for the future calls for 200-year flood protection. This means our infrastructure must protect the Natomas Region against the annual likelihood of a severe flood of just 0.5%.

This is our goal. But the reality is that RD1000 is far from that goal, which puts those in our community at greater risk than is sensible.

The reason is evident to anyone who catches a close-up look at our equipment and infrastructure, which is outdated and, in some cases, nearly out of order. Just like your car, refrigerator, or washing machine, mechanical and electrical systems wear out over time and need repair or replacement at some point.

The same is true of all the pumps, machinery, and technology RD1000 uses. This is partially because we have kept our service fees the same for nearly 30 years. For the safety of our community, having static rates and deferring maintenance any longer, in our view, is wrought with risk and potentially dangerous.

Because of this, the District developed a Capital Improvement Plan Update in 2020 (CIP) that identified and prioritized capital assets and projects necessary to meet the District’s mission statement and goals of continuously protecting the Natomas Basin strategically and efficiently.

The CIP identifies 95 specific projects that require funding, especially replacing and upgrading existing pumping plants, purchasing backup power generators, and replacing culverts and drains for which the District is responsible. The major maintenance items associated with the life cycle replacement of pumping plants are also identified in the CIP. We used a risk-based approach to identify and prioritize projects according to Likelihood of failure, relative criticality of assets, desired level of service for assets, and their expected life cycles.

The RD 1000 Board of Trustees adopted the CIP, with an eye toward the longevity of the District’s infrastructure. A funding plan for the CIP, has also been approved by the Board of Trustees and is currently being circulated to all property owners within the District, who will decide if the funding plan is approved or rejected. Property owner voting will conclude on March 10, 2023. If approved, the property owners will have decided on a Flood-Safe Future For Natomas, and implementation of the District’s CIP will be initiated for the LONGEVITY of the District’s infrastructure and the continued prosperity of the Natomas Community.

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