Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Next New Orleans?

Not very many people know this, even in California, but Sacramento faces greater flood risks than New Orleans. As a recent article explains,
Media attention surrounding the levee failures in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina has again brought national attention to the Sacramento area levee system. The city sits at the convergence of two large rivers - the American and the Sacramento. Much of the city is only around 28 feet above sea level and a system of levees surrounds many neighborhoods. And then upstream on the American River sits the Folsom Dam - which the dam's own operator stated as "No. 1 on the federal Bureau of Reclamation's safety priority list." The mix produces a possible recipe for a huge disaster in an area with more than 500,000 residents - not to mention the hundreds of thousands more that live downstream on the Sacramento River as it approaches San Francisco and the Bay.
An equally worrisome threat involves the California Delta, jsut downstream of Sacramento, which feeds into San Francisco Bay. (The most recent flood in the area is the subject of the photo at the beginning of this post.) As Governator himself has said,
The second threat is to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta levee system. This network of fragile earthen levees protects communities, valuable agricultural land, key transportation and utility corridors and our state's fresh water supply. If major levee failures were to occur, homes, farms, roads, railways, energy pipelines and power lines would be flooded. Additionally, water supplies would be contaminated by salt water and other pollutants. Such an event would jeopardize the water supply of more than 22 million Californians as well as the irrigation of more than three million acres of the most productive agricultural land in the nation.
For more background on the subject, see the Sacramento flood control authority's site. A workshop on these issues will be held in Sacramento on Sept. 28-29, jointly sponsored by UC Berkeley and the Lawrence Livermore lab.


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