The levee break at the Lower Jones Tract near Stockton on June 3 was another costly reminder that more attention needs to be paid to repairing and upgrading California's flood control system. The latest figures on crop losses in the Lower Jones Tract are now estimated at approximately $15 million and, of course, alfalfa and forages are often planted on reclaimed land.
Given the recent levee break, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the 2,500-page California Performance Review released in August has some troubling information about the state's “aging flood-control infrastructure.”
The report issued by the Performance Review panel adds even more credibility to a recent effort to oppose an Assembly Bill (AB 1983). It appeared to be on its way to Senate approval this summer and, if it were signed into law by the governor, it would have mandated that the State Reclamation Board collaborate with state and federal agencies to include eco-system restoration in flood control plans.
But, a broad-based coalition of different groups banded together in opposition. The bill was brought to CAFA's attention by District 2 Board Member Tom Ellis of Grimes and the association weighed in on the subject along with more than 30 other groups.
The main objection to AB 1983 boiled down to diverting the Reclamation Board's critical mission of flood control to also include environmental issues that are already being addressed by other governmental agencies. The added cost of creating a bigger bureaucracy got thumbs down from the State Finance Office. Expanding a bureaucracy in a cash strapped state that's trying to dig its way out of a deep hole didn't make sense.
Fortunately, AB 1983 was put “on suspense” in the Senate Appropriations Committee. If the bill gets a second life in the next legislative session, however, Assembly members and Senators who support it should take a close look at the Performance Review report and its critique of California's flood control infrastructure. For example, the report referred to a system that's in “varying stages of disrepair.” It also stated that “deferred maintenance” is a problem on a “significant portion” of the system.
The following two sentences from the report should be required reading: “There is a pressing need to upgrade and maintain the system as well as to educate the public about the risks of levee failure. Unfortunately, state funding to perform these necessary tasks is inadequate.”
A reminder to CAFA members and others planning to attend the Alfalfa Symposium in San Diego; CAFA's annual meeting will be held on Dec. 15. The breakfast meeting starts at 6:30 a.m. and CAFA and non-CAFA members are welcome. Seating is limited and tickets to the breakfast will be available at the CAFA booth.
This year's conference combines the National and California Alfalfa Symposium. The symposium site is the Town and Country Resort and Convention Center. A pre-symposium tour to the Imperial Valley takes place Dec. 13. Pre-registration is required. Complete symposium details are available on the UC Alfalfa Workgroup Web site: http//:alfalfa.ucdavis.edu.