Tropical Storm Harvey has dumped 15 trillion gallons of water on southeastern Texas. Scientists warn that with climate change, future storms will be wetter and more intense - that includes in California. The state will see more rain than snow, straining an aging Central Valley flood protection system.
“From a cost perspective, we’re talking about having more water move through our systems earlier in the season, and in a shorter time period, which has really significant fiscal impacts on how we would manage the system and what we would design to handle those flows,” says Mike Mierzwa, lead flood management planner with the California Department of Water Resources.
A new plan, approved last week by the Central Valley Flood Protection Board, recommends the state invest more than $20 billion over the next 30 years to protect people from flooding.
Mierzwa, who grew up in Houston, says he thought the city was well-prepared because officials had been investing in flood control for decades.
“When this finally recedes and they move into recovery operations and the aftermath, they’re going to find that everything they had spent, wasn’t enough. And they’re going to want to spend and do more in the future," he says. "I think we’re going to want to do the same.”
The plan looks at the state’s two largest river systems, an area that covers a swath of land from Mount Shasta to Bakersfield. It looks at the need for new projects as well as costs of operating and maintaining the current flood control system.