SACRAMENTO – Today, Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) and Senator Roger Niello (R-Fair Oaks) announced the introduction of legislation to place a $4.5 billion flood protection and climate resiliency bond on the statewide ballot in 2024.
Senate Bill 638 would fund projects in both urban and rural areas throughout the state. More than half of the money would be used to fund improvements within the Central Valley, much of which is protected by an aging system of levees, weirs, and bypasses for which the State of California bears ultimate responsibility for operating and maintaining.
SB 638 would allocate $1 billion to provide for the state’s share of nonfederal costs of urban flood risk reduction projects that are located outside of the Central Valley. Levees, which are critical to protecting farms, legacy towns, regional transportation and utility infrastructure in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, as well as protecting water quality for Delta farms and federal and state water project exports, would receive $500 million. Consistent with the Conservation Strategy under the state’s Central Valley Flood Protection Plan 2022 Update, the legislation would allocate $500 million for multi-benefit flood management projects that restore floodplains for fish and wildlife habitat while reducing flood risk for urban and rural communities, including $100 million for coastal watershed projects.
“It’s been more than 15 years since the last significant flood protection bond was approved by California voters. The January atmospheric river storms that caused flooding around the state underscore the risk to human life, and the scale of property damage and economic disruption that will only worsen over time given the predicted effects of climate change on California’s weather patterns. Now is the time for the state to make these much needed investments,” said Senator Eggman.
In the December 2022 update to the Central Valley Flood Plan, the state recognized the impacts of climate change have shifted the question of whether California will experience catastrophic flooding from an “if” to a “when.” The Plan sets forth a funding target just for the Central Valley at $360-$560 million per year, and notes the state has only averaged $250 million per year in flood funding over the last decade. In addition to the $2.5 billion investment in flood protection facility improvements every decade, the Plan calls upon the Governor and the Legislature to increase overall annual spending for operations and maintenance of the Central Valley facilities to $190 million.
“The winter storms that ushered in the New Year highlighted the need for improvements to our flood protection and water storage system. I am pleased to join Senator Eggman in authoring this measure to fund infrastructure projects that will protect communities in danger of flooding,” said Senator Niello.
If approved by a 2/3s vote of both houses of the legislature and signed by the Governor, the bond would then need to be approved by a majority of voters in the November 2024 statewide general election.
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING
San Joaquin Area Flood Control Agency (SJAFCA) – Gary Singh, Chairman of the Board of Directors
“As we rapidly shift from too little to too much water, some of our most vulnerable communities remain at risk for serious harm. We have many unmet but urgent needs for flood protection, water supply and quality, and emergency response. We need bold, innovative and timely action to adapt our infrastructure and systems to defend against water-related disasters,” said Gary Singh, Chairman of the San Joaquin Area Flood Control Agency Board of Directors. “We don't stand a fighting chance without funding, so this bond is the key to protecting lives, livelihoods and critical natural resources. We commend Senator Susan Eggman and the bipartisan delegation for pushing it forward.”
California Central Valley Flood Control Association (CCVFCA) – Tom Slater, President
“The California Central Valley Flood Control Association is grateful to Senator Eggman for proposing the most significant infusion of state dollars into California’s flood protection facilities since 2006,” said Association President Tom Slater. “Every part of the state—urban and rural, north and south—will benefit from the funding included in SB 638. Local agencies that partner with our federal and state governments to improve, operate, and maintain our vital levees, flood bypasses, and other infrastructure really depend on our governor and legislature to commit state funds to ensure the lives and property of Californians are protected from the type of devastating flooding we experienced just last month. The over 70 reclamation district and area flood control agency members of the Association look forward to working alongside Senator Eggman to secure passage of SB 638.”
Restore the Delta (RTD) – Artie Valencia, Community Organizer & Government Liaison
"Stockton is the most vulnerable flood point in California. San Joaquin County has been historically disinvested and needs proper funding to implement flood infrastructure improvements (including the multi benefits of Floodplain Restoration) and direct outreach on basic flood safety and resources to disadvantaged communities to ensure they know the risks and are prepared. We thank Senator Eggman for beginning this important discussion”
River Partners – Julie Rentner, President
“The Central Valley is at risk of a mega flood that could cause $1 trillion in damages - far larger than we saw in January. Fortunately, the new Central Valley Flood Plan shows how to reduce that risk through large-scale floodplain restoration, to allow floodwaters to spread out and slow down before they hit Central Valley cities. There is universal support for this solution, which also boosts groundwater supplies and creates wildlife habitat that captures carbon. But we need enough funding to build flood solutions before the big flood arrives.”