The new auxiliary spillway at Folsom Dam allows the release of water sooner than from the main dam.
The new auxiliary spillway at Folsom Dam allows the release of water sooner than from the main dam.

Soapbox

New Folsom Dam spillway is just the start on Sacramento flood protection

By Doris Matsui

Special to The Bee

December 11, 2017 01:00 PM

With the winter season officially begun – and with climate change manifesting itself in ever more frequent and destructive events – it is more important than ever that the Sacramento region continue making smart investments in our flood protection.

 
Opinion

In October, I joined local, state and federal officials to celebrate the completion of the most significant single investment in our region’s flood protection infrastructure in the last quarter-century: the Folsom Dam auxiliary spillway, which is the culmination of more than a decade of hard work, collaboration and battles for federal funding.

By allowing water to be safely released from Folsom Reservoir earlier during a large winter storm, the spillway will improve our ability to balance flood management, water supply and environmental protection.

It was an ambitious, $1 billion project that required close cooperation among the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency, the California Department of Water Resources, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and my office. The scale of the project is breathtaking – it is taller than the Statue of Liberty, weighs as much as 2 1/2 Eiffel Towers and protects more than 500,000 people.

As the spillway illustrates, our region has come a long way over the last few decades in improving our flood control infrastructure. But we must continue to respect the enormity of our challenge. Because of Sacramento’s location at the confluence of two great rivers, we can’t take anything for granted, particularly as climate change accelerates.

The spillway is just one piece of a system of projects that work together to protect residents from flooding. Within the last year, Congress authorized two other massive projects I championed to strengthen levees along the American River and around West Sacramento. Locally financed work has already begun. The federal authorizations allow the Corps of Engineers to start its share of construction.

I am working every day with my congressional colleagues to ensure that these projects receive the funding they need. Similarly, the hard-fought congressional authorization to begin federally financed work in Natomas means that levee improvement will commence along the southern and eastern reaches of the basin in the first half of 2018.

I will continue urging my colleagues and the Corps of Engineers to support our flood protection projects. The economic momentum clearly building in our region is only as good as the system of levees, dams, weirs and bypasses that keeps it safe from catastrophic floods.

My commitment to flood protection is about more than buildings and land values; it’s about people’s safety. And I will never rest in my work to ensure that we invest in flood protection in the most aggressive and responsible way possible.

Doris Matsui, a Sacramento Democrat, represents the Sixth Congressional District. She can be contacted at Matsui.Press@mail.house.gov.