A Note from Brian Balbas, Chief Engineer
As the new Chief Engineer for the Flood Control District, I will continue outreach efforts to strengthen our connection with the community. My goal is for our customers to become more aware of the benefits and services we provide, as well as our challenges. Some of our highlights from 2017 include completing a critical infrastructure project in North Richmond, engaging more students, and working with legislative efforts to enhance our funding, such as Stormwater Bill 231 (SB 231) which was signed into law in October. We are following up on SB 231 by seeking partnership with local utility districts to explore co-benefit projects such as providing additional flood control protection while at the same reusing stormwater or improving the recreational experience along creeks. Sustainable funding remains our biggest challenge.
Summary of Accomplishments
Creek and Channel Safety Awareness Program
Students at Walnut Creek Intermediate School held their fourth successful "Stay Out, Stay Alive!" campaign, which received positive media coverage.
The Creek and Channel Safety Awareness Program conducted a third successful event at Walnut Creek Intermediate School working with the leadership class to help develop and implement events for students that would raise student awareness of the "Stay Out, Stay Alive!" campaign. The highly successful program engaged hundreds of students in such activities as a poster competition and trivia contest. This occurred the last week of October as part of our annual Creek and Channel Safety Month. Per our program schedule, all schools in the County were sent reminders in September to help get the "Stay Out, Stay Alive!" message to their students and parents and the Board declared October as Creek and Channel Safety Awareness month. The event culminated in a rally during lunch at Walnut Creek Intermediate devoted to the recognition of the best poster designs. Representatives from the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District's Swiftwater Rescue Team came to talk to the students about safety along creeks and channels.
Visit Creek and Channel Safety Awareness page for more information.
Critical winter preparedness information went out to County residents as part of our media and community outreach campaign.
To help County residents prepare for the anticipated wet winter, the District updated and rolled out its "Ready for Rain" campaign at a November 2017 Board of Supervisors meeting. This campaign includes web pages, sand bag locations and information, flood forecast tools, homeowner tips for winter preparedness, 24 hour contact information, and media releases. A sandbag station media event was also held with news agencies helping us get our winter preparedness message out to the public via live interviews. As part of this program, staff was made available to attend community meetings regarding winter preparedness.
Visit Flood Preparedness page for more information.
Rainfall tools and flood forecasting
We have added more information to our interactive RainMap on-line tool
The District used our Flood Emergency Response grant to create an interactive web page to share our rain and stream gauge information with the public, including mobile devices. We integrated this with our "7-5-3-2 Flood" protocol which tracks the watershed wetness based on recent rainfall and indicates the potential for risk of flooding from the National Weather Service forecast. This tool received a California State Association of Counties Challenge Award.
With grant funds, we installed new stream gauges in several communities to increase flood emergency awareness and response.
With Flood Emergency Response grant funds, we installed 10 new stream gauges throughout the County. Once installed, we will identify the flood stage at each gauge and work with the National Weather Service and Office of Emergency Services to establish appropriate warning messages for nearby communities. The stream gauge data can also be access via our webpage.
Giving Natives a Chance Community Planting Day
Our sixth "Giving Natives a Chance" planting event was held in December, with over 150 volunteers.
The fifth annual "Giving the Natives a Chance" community planting day was held on December 8, 2018 at Clayton Drain in Concord. What started as a pilot project to install native plants in a small section of flood control channel overgrown by undesirable species, due to its success, has been expanded. Besides returning native plants to our creek environment and reducing herbicide use, this event brought members of the community together to increase creek awareness and stewardship. This year 50 volunteers came out to the planting event. Volunteers collected over 1000 lbs. of trash and planted over 5000 native grass plugs.
Visit Giving the Native a Chance page for more information.
Three Creeks Project
We made significant progress on a $5.5 million habitat restoration and public access project on Marsh Creek in Brentwood with partner American Rivers.
In July 2015, we launched the $2 million Three Creeks Parkway Project in Brentwood, a multi-agency public-private partnership to transform 1/4 mile of Marsh Creek flood control channel into high quality salmon and riparian habitat, with enhanced public access. Since then, the project has expanded to restore ¾ mile in length and cost $5.5 million. Over $3 million outside funding has been obtained to date including: $1 million developer, $744,000 State DWR, $500,000 CA River Parkways, $850,000 Delta Conservancy, and $75,000 other grant funds from American Rivers. In this first phase, planning and environmental studies were completed.
Visit Three Creeks Restoration Project page for more information.
Facility Conditions Assessment Program
We are halfway through our Flood Control Facility Assessment Program.
The District continued with facility condition assessments to look for weak spots in our flood protection infrastructure. Structural engineering experts visited and assessed concrete channels (including some of the District's oldest structures dating from the 1950s), drop structures, and detention basins. Assessed facilities were located in many watersheds and many cities across the County. Preliminary results confirm that the District's facilities have been well maintained, and can continue to function with continued maintenance.
Lower Walnut Creek Restoration Project
Significant progress was made on our Lower Walnut Creek Restoration Project to transform a dated flood control channel into a sustainable creek.
Following the 2014 Congressional action to return the most downstream 4 miles of Walnut Creek to the District, planning and design work continued to transform the largest section of the largest creek in the County into a sustainable system. The District continued its popular site tours and series of innovative YouTube videos titled Lower Walnut Creek Adventures. The Project was featured during the International Climate Change Conference in Germany and was also included in the biennial State of the Estuary Conference in San Francisco. In April of 2017, the District published its Feasibility Study detailing the plan to restore the Creek and by the end of 2017, the District, along with its technical consultant, had finished the Planning phase of work and produced a Project Study Report. The Design phase is scheduled to start in February of 2018 and will undergo all of the necessary permitting and compliance to get it to the construction phase.
Visit www.lowerlwanutcreek.org for more information.
Watershed Day at the Capitol
We visited many of our representatives at the State Capitol
In April, District staff collaborated with watershed and creek restoration groups from throughout the state to meet with legislators in Sacramento for the annual Watershed Day at the Capitol. District staff prepared and distributed brochures covering our key projects, challenges, and need for additional funding. The highlight was our Annual Report. District staff was able to meet with most of the County delegation of Assembly Members and Senators and all were invited to field tours at their convenience.
Challenges and Action Plans
Increasing Maintenance Backlog: Maintenance Facilities Conditions Index
Our maintenance backlog continues to increase causing the performance of our facilities to decrease.
Due to various factors, primarily funding and staffing, our backlog of facility maintenance continues to grow, causing our service level performance to decline. We are working to develop measurement tools and metrics to help establish the magnitudes involved. From that, we will develop a plan to reduce our backlog over time.
Increasing Permit Requirements: Streamlining
Increasing permit requirements results in reduced service levels.
Meeting new and increased regulatory requirements requires us to redirect resources away from needed maintenance and traditional flood risk reduction efforts. We are working with the Bay Area Flood Protection Agencies Association and other agencies in the Bay Area to evaluate the impacts and communicate those to our leaders and the regulatory agencies we work with.
Lack of Funding: Statewide Stormwater Funding Initiative
Changes to our limited funding are necessary to provide sustainable programs.
Most flood protection, drainage, and stormwater agencies statewide suffer from inadequate funding and are headed into a funding crisis. Proposition 13 froze tax rates at low levels almost 40 years ago, and Proposition 218 has made it difficult to increase revenue for the past 20 years. The County has been working with the California State Association of Counties (CSAC) and the County Engineers Association of California (CEAC) on a Statewide Stormwater Funding Initiative to reclassify stormwater agency funding to be similar to what water and wastewater utility districts currently have. We are calling this our "One Water" initiative. A proposed ballot measure was filed with the State Attorney General's office for placing a stormwater funding measure on the November ballot, however, polling showed it would not pass and it was placed on hold. The District will continue to work with CSAC and CEAC on moving a statewide stormwater funding ballot measure forward, targeting a November 2018 vote.
2017 Progress on Action Plan
We are making progress on our action plan items.
The FC District will continue implementation of the action plans outlined in the first Annual Report published in 2013. The key action for the next few years will be to focus on measuring the condition of our facilities and reporting challenges to our leaders with the goal of developing sustainable funding for all our programs.