California Governor Signs Executive Order to Protect Levees, Prevent Flooding

California Governor Signs Executive Order to Protect Levees, Prevent Flooding

Crops sit flooded after a storm outside of Fresno, Calif., on March 12, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Travis Gillmore

Travis Gillmore

8/7/2023

Updated: 12/30/2023

Following the wettest winter season in more than a decade—ending years-long drought and leaving much of the state under emergency declaration due to storm damage and flooding—Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order (pdf) Aug. 4 strengthening levee protection and flood prevention efforts statewide.
“California is getting ready for the next rainy season by streamlining levee repairs and other critical work,” the governor’s office said in a press release announcing the order. “We’re doing the work now to prepare and protect communities from flooding.”
The state saw more than 30 atmospheric river storm systems and record levels of snowfall from last December until March, causing damage to riverways and flood infrastructure.
Levees across the state flooded and if sediment is not removed before the next rainy season, more could fail, according to experts.
The executive order suspends some provisions, including those pertaining to lake and streambed alteration—as the removal of sediment can change the direction and intensity of water flows—water quality requirements, and the controversial California Environmental Quality Act, which was passed in 1970 to establish environmental protection laws.
The order also temporarily suspends work hour limitations to prevent staffing shortages allowing agencies to perform necessary work before Nov. 1, 2023.
The order amends state law, which is granted to the governor during times of war and states of emergency.
With 53 counties in the state experiencing various emergency and disaster declarations—issued by state and federal governments—the governor expressed the need to repair damaged infrastructure and increase flood preparedness by temporarily removing rules and regulations that slow progress.
Mr. Newsom said in the order such was necessary “to protect health, safety, and the environment, and to reduce the risks of local catastrophic flooding” in the future.
Several regions were mentioned in the order as significantly impacted by winter storms, including the San Joaquin River, the Tulare Lake Basin, the Salinas River, the Pajaro River, and all their associated tributaries. Additionally cited were the coastal streams between the Pajaro River in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, including the Ventura River in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
A flooded Pajaro River in Pajaro, Calif., on March 14, 2023. (California Strawberry Commission via AP)

A flooded Pajaro River in Pajaro, Calif., on March 14, 2023. (California Strawberry Commission via AP)

The restrictions detailed in the governor’s order are designed to mitigate environmental impacts and prevent the degradation of rivers and streams.
According to the order, no more than 30 percent of vegetation can be removed per mile of river and contractors are ordered to take excavated material to locations where sediment will not re-enter rivers and tributaries.
Advocates for waterway preservation, including the San Joaquin Valley’s Delta View Water Association and the Bay Area-based Restore the Delta, applauded the governor’s efforts.
“Governor Newsom’s executive order allows our Central Valley communities to streamline necessary work to restore critical levees and rivers damaged by this winter’s floods,” Rachel Glauser, executive director of the Delta View Water Association, told The Epoch Times by email. “Though it is encouraging that the governor has taken action to protect our communities and waterways, it highlights the significant need to repair existing water infrastructure and innovate new ways we can better steward this resource when it is so abundantly available to us.”
The order comes on the heels of a $500 million allocation in the 2023–2024 fiscal budget to address flood control. Additionally, water management and storage expenditures over the last two budgets have been more than $8.6 billion.
Having swung from drought to flooding in one season, there are also a number of bills related to water storage and flooding currently under consideration in the Legislature.
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Travis Gillmore

Travis Gillmore

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Travis Gillmore is an avid reader and journalism connoisseur based in California covering finance, politics, the State Capitol, and breaking news for The Epoch Times.

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