Flood Disaster

Can it Happen Here?

Peter J. Shields Library Lobby - Winter 2005

The Sacramento region, according to the Sacramento Flood Control Agency, faces the highest risk of flooding of any major metropolitan area in the country. The levee system protecting Sacramento is built to the protection level of a 100-year storm, while those of New Orleans were built to level of a 250-year storm (for definitions of these storm ratings, see http://www.fema.gov/fhm/fq_term.shtm). Moreover, the 1600 miles of levees that protect Sacramento and the Central Valley were built over a period of over 150 years and are managed by a patchwork of federal, state and private agencies and have not been adequately maintained in many cases. The levees were largely built for agricultural purposes, and do not meet modern standards for the levee construction to protect developed land. More and more growth and development is occurring in the floodplain. Another critical element in our region's flood vulnerability and structure of protection is our system of dams: the Monticello, Folsom, Nimbus, and Indian Valley Dams, as well as the proposed Auburn Dam.

The display in the Shields Library lobby includes a selection of historical materials on our flood vulnerability, as well as information on the levee system, dams, and other elements of floodplain management. Scores of studies of the levees and dams and floodplain management have been done, and there is extensive documentation on emergency planning in the region. Government agencies representing federal, state, regional and local government all play a role in flood protection in our area. Until an event like Hurricane Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans occurs, however, it is often difficult to mobilize the decision-making and funding structure to address our flood vulnerabilities. The display includes examples of recent proposals for solutions, including Flood Warnings: Responding to California's Flood Crisis [pdf], by the California Department of Water Resources (January 2005) and the major bond initiative proposed in January by Governor Schwarzenegger.

For additional information, the ongoing Sacramento Bee special series "Tempting Fate: Are We Next?" is an excellent investigation of issues surrounding flood risk, including the natural setting, insurance risk maps, infrastructure and political and financial constraints.

The exhibit includes information about resources to help you and your family to prepare for a natural disaster:

For additional information, please contact Government Information & Maps Department (530-752-1656).

Can it happen here?