Multiple county agencies provide flood damage update

Resource management agency says road and bridge damages currently amount to two thirds their $56 million annual budget

VISALIA – After the flood waters receded, county agencies were able to evaluate the total number of resources used as well as the fiscal impact to the county.

On April 18, several county agencies gave a storm update to the board of supervisors. The presentation began with Tulare County Fire Chief Charlie Norman, and moved to the assessor’s office, Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA), parks and recreation, the Ag commissioner, and purchasing. Each agency gave an update from their perspective, on how they handled the storm and what will happen next.

“As we move forward, we are starting into the recovery phase to get that done through the FEMA process. But we also have management action points, trigger points and various flows to where we will re-engage,” Norman said. “We’re not on our heels in any way, shape or form and…we’re ready to launch should something happen.”

Norman said the runoff is not going to be of such “biblical proportions” as some may have thought. He said in order to get a heavy release of water it will take six or seven 90 degree days which is not forecasted for some time. With the snowpack sitting at around 307% of annual numbers, they will do what they can to get as much water down the channels as smoothly and safely as possible. Norman said they are working closely with the Army Corps of Engineers to make sure the reservoirs are all at manageable levels as well. The Dry Creek area below Terminus Dam will not pose as much of a problem as Mill Creek below Pine Flat, which will create some challenges according to Norman.

According to the incident statistics supplied by Norman, throughout the recent storms, there were over 170 water rescues and over 50 levee breaches. There were also around 150,000 tons of sandbags delivered to 12 stations throughout the county and over 200 personnel assigned to areas throughout the state. As far as damage assessments, there are approximately 23,921 structures threatened to date:

  •  642 affected
  • 37 destroyed
  • 130 major 
  • 272 minor damages. 

As far as public projects that were affected, the Springville Wastewater Treatment Plant, the Tonyville Wastewater Treatment Plant, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and Bartlett Park were affected by the flooding. Norman said a flood advisory will continue to be in place for those along the Kings River for the forcastable future. Pine Flat is holding at 11,800 cubic feet per second of releases, and the ACOE is evaluating further increases. Lake Success is currently matching inflows and along with Lake Kaweah, their outflows are likely to remain steady.

Roads and Bridges

Reed Schenke with Resource Management Agency (RMA) gave an update at the board meeting as far as roads and bridges. He said they have over 120 distinctly damaged locations of county roads, which totals in a little over $38 million. The largest cost to an area is $10 million to fix bridges, culverts and part of the road that has washed out at M112 at Deer Creek. Globe Drive will cost around $8.5 million to repair both the upper and lower bridge approaches and washed out road. Schenke said their annual road operations and capital budget is around $56 million, so the $38 million in repairs is about two thirds of their annual operating costs.

“So about two thirds of that is what we’re looking at. So a huge chunk of our annual operations. We’re hoping that this doesn’t really slow things down,” Schenke said.

Ag Commissioner

Christopher Greer, assistant agricultural commissioner, gave a “very, very preliminary and very, very short scope”  update as to the amount of agricultural damage from the heavy storms. He said there has been roughly more than 20,200 acres of estimated damage to date.

  • Alfalfa– 2,120+ acres 
  • Almonds- 4,220+ acres 
  • Specialty Crops- 2,780+ acres 
  • Citrus- 1,350+ acres 
  • Stone Fruit- 200+ acres 
  • Pastureland- 110+ acres 
  • Pistachios- 2,600+ acres 
  • Pomegranates- 220+ acres 
  • Grapes (table/raisin)- 1,660+ acres
  • Row Crops- 4,990+ acres 
  • Walnuts- 110+ acres

“We only know what we know. And at this point we only know what people have reported to our surveys,” Greer said. “We understand that people are caring for their livelihoods right now trying to manage and so a survey is probably kind of low on their list to fill out.”

As far as livestock damages, they are fairly prevalent as well. The number of those affected could have been affected in a variety of ways, either milk production, displacement, disease or more. These numbers include:

  • Apiary- 600+ 
  • Beef Cattle- 2,200+ 
  • Dairy Cattle– 40,000+ 
  • Goats- 300+ 
  • Swine- 10,000+ 
  • Other Livestock 3,000+

As far as facilities and equipment goes, Greer said there has been roughly more than $40,000 in damages to various agriculture facilities and equipment. This could include items such as irrigation, structures, bee boxes, bulldozers, electrical lines, fences, fanjets, pumps, silage, feed, welding machines, roads, houses, wind machines, corrals and more.

On April 19, the Tulare County Ag Commisioners with the Tulare County Farm Bureau and California Citrus Mutual held a Disaster Assistance Workshop for farmers and dairy producers. It is an opportunity for individuals to meet with agencies who can assist in recovery efforts. It will begin at 6 to 8 p.m. at the Exeter Memorial Building and supervisor Larry Micari will also be in attendance. They will be hosting an additional workshop on April 25, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Tulare County Agriculture Building Auditorium at 4437 south Laspina in Tulare. Supervisor Pete Vander Poel will be available at the second workshop as well.

The workshops will help farmers and dairy producers who were affected learn about completing the Tulare County disaster damage survey, learn about enrollment for eligibility for USDA-Farm Service Agency (FSA) recovery programs, talk with local FSA and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) specialists. THey will also have the opportunity to hear from a crop insurance specialist and ask questions about flood recovery.

Health and Human Services

HHSA has put together a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center in Farmersville and will be open Monday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. This center will have around 10 state agencies available for assistance. The Red Cross will be available as well as FEMA. Anita Ortiz, the assistant director with Tulare County HHSA, said this center will be open until it is deemed no longer needed in the community. They will also have a FEMA mobile disaster relief center making its way around the county.

This mobile unit will make its way and stay in each location for about a week. The unit is currently in Lindsay according to Ortiz. It will then move to Alpaugh, Springville, Woodlake, and Orosi over the next six weeks. Once the unit has stayed in each place for about a week and has completed the circuit, Ortiz said they will determine if it needs to make additional rounds for those unable to make it to the Farmersville Center. In addition to those units Ortiz said they will also have FEMA disaster survival teams “canvasing the county.”

Ortiz said they have been busy to say the least. Throughout the worst of it, they provided care, shelter and temporary evacuation points in Tipton, Tulare, Porterville, Exeter, Ivanhoe, Dinuba and currently still in Porterville. There are still several residents in Porterville who have been affected by the mandatory evacuations along the Tule River. HHSA is able to provide these services in partnership with California Department Social Services (CDSS) and the American Red Cross.

HHSA has also partnered with the Resource Management Agency to provide a hotline for those who need help in the county. Ortiz said they have partnered with several agencies to receive donations on behalf of the county.

Ortiz said the environmental health team conducted 604 environmental assessments. These assessments  ensured that drinking water, septic and sewage systems, hazardous materials, dairies and restaurants received support. The Animal Services Division continues to offer support on animal evacuation and sheltering. They are currently still partnering with the city of Porterville to ensure that animals remain safe.

Tulare County Sheriff

Throughout the storms, the sheriff’s department had 263 deputies deployed. They reached 6,772 hours of overtime, with no injuries or damaged equipment. Resources they had deployed included Homeless Enforcement and Resource Team (HEART), Search and Rescue Sworn and Volunteers (SAR), Swiftwater Dive Rescue Team (SDRT), Aviation Support (ASU) and the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Unit (UAV).

Through CAL OES mutual aid support, there were a total of 308 law enforcement officers from 17 different agencies. As far as evacuations, there were 14 communities affected with approximately 9,163 people affected.

  • Springville (1,465)  
  • Three Rivers (1,445)  
  • Kings River (1,450)  
  • Cutler (1,077)  
  • Allensworth (952)  
  • Alpaugh (630)  
  • Tule River (680)  
  • Teviston (667)  
  • Johnsondale (458)  
  • Yokhol (158)  
  • South Tulare (130)  
  • Pine Flat (26)  
  • Ponderosa (26)

Currently only the Kings River Communities, Alpaugh, Allensworth, Pine Flat, Ponderosa, Johnsondale. Mineral King are in shelter in place. TCSO Sworn and volunteers remained on call for emergency response and provided isolated communities with supplies including 7,650 Gallons of bottled water and 4,550 shelf stable meals.

County Assessor Office

Tulare County Assessor and clerk Tara Freitas said there is property tax relief available to those who need it. Her office has also assisted with the GIS function at the emergency operation center. She said her office will be partnering with the Ag Commissioner’s office to provide information at upcoming workshops as well. As it stands now, Freitas said they are unable to determine the fiscal impact on the current role.

“[The fiscal impact] will become more clear as we work with taxpayers to assess the extent of their property damage,” Freitas said. “We would like to assure property owners that we will do our best to make this process as easy as possible and provide as much tax relief as allowed within the scope of the law.”

Parks and Recreation & Purchasing

There was really only one park severely damaged by the flooding and that was Bartlett Park which is adjacent to Lake Success. It is currently on property owned by ACOE and it is designed to absorb drainage from the spillway. About 75% of the park is damaged and it will remain closed until flood season is over and repairs are made.

The Purchasing Department did all they could to ensure everything ran smoothing throughout the heavy storms. Primarily for this incident, they established an incident command post that was moved out to the International Agri Center for up to about 800 personnel out there. They also worked in tandem with both CalFire and Cal OES in order to procure all the materials needed to provide appropriate incident support at multiple county locations. They also established the necessary contracts for heavy equipment, and facilitated agreements at the incident command posts. They also delivered sand bags, other resources and food and hydration to fire stations and county employees.

“I just want to say thank you to all the [county] staff and all the hard work, everything’s coming together now,” district one supervisor Larry Micari said. “These things always start out as a mess when everyone is scrambling, but a lot of the community has seen the support, we have seen it.”

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