Today, Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA) announced the introduction of H.R. 6484, the SAFE Levee Act, which would help guard the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta region against the growing risk of a catastrophic flood by strengthening the Delta's levees. The bill would also provide a complete cost-benefit study on the impact of the Peripheral Tunnel proposal, which the state and federal governments have thus far refused to do. House Representatives Jerry McNerney (D-Stockton, CA), Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento, CA), George Miller (D-Martinez, CA), and Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena, CA) have joined as lead cosponsors of the legislation.
For 60 years, the Bureau of Reclamation has used the levees to ship water south of the Delta without providing the necessary maintenance. This neglect has left the levees in disrepair and threatens public safety. The Peripheral Tunnel project, proposed under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) framework, continues to ignore this problem. For that reason, H.R. 6484 would authorize the Bureau of Reclamation to provide financial assistance to strengthen the stability of the Delta levees that are necessary for water conveyance and to protect human life and property in the region. Full text of the legislation can be read here.
"The Delta is an economic engine for the Sacramento-San Joaquin region, and all of California; the SAFE Levee Act would help it stay that way," said Congressman Garamendi (D-Fairfield). "For decades I have fought to protect Northern California from short-sighted water grabs and advocated for a comprehensive plan to meet the water needs of all Californians. Such a plan must include robust flood protection. Despite what some BDCP proponents may argue, reinforcing the Delta levees is feasible as proven by multiple studies, and this bill would provide a funding stream through the Bureau of Reclamation to strengthen the region's flood infrastructure. Furthermore, simple logic would indicate that before moving head first towards construction of peripheral tunnels, we should first look at the big economic picture to determine which, if any, project makes financial sense."
"I will state again what I have always said: I will stand with the families, farmers and small businesses who depend on a healthy Delta for their livelihoods," said Congressman McNerney (D-Stockton). "The SAFE Levee Act is a responsible measure to accurately evaluate the financial burden the Governor's plan would create and shine light on the truth behind this flawed plan. Levees have and will continue to be an essential part of a fair and equitable solution that includes the input of the Delta communities. Not only would a canal destroy the vital estuary that we depend on, it could place an insurmountable burden on users to pay for a plan that was flawed to begin with, setting our state water policy back decades. We will continue to demand a seat at the table and to have a voice in the process."
"Delta levees work hard to support the passage of both fish and critical water supplies every day and they should be fortified to ensure that they are reliable," said Congresswoman Matsui (D-Sacramento). "Many of the Delta's levees require substantial improvements and must be improved before a severe natural disaster imperils the Delta region's economy."
"We know that any long-term solution to the Bay-Delta's problems will need to address our region's levees, and will need to make economic sense for California," Congressman Miller (D-Martinez). "This bill starts an important -- and long-overdue -- conversation about strengthening our levees and fully evaluating the BDCP's costs and benefits."
"The Bay-Delta is home to thousands of business and residential areas," said Congressman Thompson (D-St. Helena). "Having safe, working levees are necessary to shield our communities from flooding, while protecting local jobs and our region's economy. The draft BDCP ignores the need to strengthen our levees. This bill provides the means to correct this oversight, while we continue to look for science-based solutions for the Bay-delta and California's water needs."
Ever since Congressman Garamendi led the fight to stop the Peripheral Canal in 1982, Garamendi has advocated for an "All-California" water policy that prioritizes storage, conservation, recycling, habitat restoration, and levee improvements. Garamendi believes that a plan without these elements is incomplete at best.