Newsom visits Tulare Lake, warns about snowmelt

Gov. Newsom visits Tulare Lake in light of increased snowmelt from a record snowpack that will send more water to the basin

TULARE COUNTY – While massive atmospheric rivers doused the Valley floor with a drought busting amount of water and a healthy snowpack, Tulare Lake and the farms on it are reeling from the consequences.

Governor Gavin Newsom visited the basin to observe the damage thus far while warning about the impact that is on the horizon. He noted in a successive press release that flooding impacts in the region are expected to worsen in the coming weeks as snowmelt escalates from higher temperatures in the Sierra Nevadas.

Newsom specifically visited Allensworth and Alpaugh along with a dairy that has been partially submerged by flood water. “Our focus is keeping these communities safe, and we’re working with our federal and local counterparts to provide on-the-ground assistance and the support locals need. This weather whiplash is what the climate crisis looks like,” Newsom said.

State officials have been on the ground since storms first started hitting, supporting and coordinating emergency response. Now, California is shifting focus to flood prevention and recovery efforts and will support local response in the coming weeks, months and years.

 The state response to flooding, both in the Tulare Basin and across California, includes:

  • Over 1.7 million sandbags and roughly 20,000 supersacks distributed to help prevent flooding;
  • 12,000 feet of muscle walls constructed;
  • Over 49 million pounds of rock and sand used to shore up rivers and levees;
  • Over 60 shelters opened for folks who got displaced by flooding and snowfall;
  • Over 600 comfort kits distributed to impacted families;
  • Over 3 million miles of California roads plowed or maintained.

On April 25 the state also announced a new flood outreach effort to reach one million Californians in flood-threatened communities. Through Listos California, a program of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), the state will mobilize teams of phone-bankers to conduct direct outreach to Californians living in high-risk flood areas in Fresno, Kern, Tulare, Kings, Merced, Madera, Mariposa and San Bernardino counties.

Last week, Cal OES, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) met with county officials and emergency response personnel in the Tulare Lake Basin to help organize flood response plans to prepare for snowmelt in the coming months.

The state, in partnership with USACE and local entities, is prioritizing snowmelt forecasting, reservoir operations, flooding assessments and flood response support. DWR has also launched a $5 million program to provide temporary pumps to local water districts for groundwater recharge basins to increase flood diversions.

According to Fresno media outlet GVWire, Newsom said that the flood response was slowed by Fresno, Tulare and Kings county opting out of the Central Valley Food Protection Plan.

The Central Valley Flood Protection Plan of 2022 is a 30 year financial blueprint for the government response to increased flooding as a result of climate change. The plan explains how 30 billion dollars will be distributed to minimize damages of flood flows in the central valley which are expected to increase five times by 2072.

The plan designates $16 billion to state funding and $11 billion in Federal funding towards the cause. The 11 billion is split between the Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management agency to respond to the threat of flooding in the central valley.

Director of the California Department of Water Resources Karla Nemeth how the lack of information from the counties makes it difficult to know where to divert the water to, so they can best protect the local communities.

“Our big challenge is in these four counties, they are not part of the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan, which means there’s — I know that there’s a lot of information here in these counties about what happens to the water once the corps (Army Corps of Engineers) releases it from the dams and before it gets to the lakebed,” said Nemeth

Tulare County did not have any information on if they opted in or out of the Central Valley Protection Plan. Chief of staff for the county board of supervisors, Israel Sotelo did explain how they are preparing for the upcoming flooding.

“The Army Corps of Engineers has notified us that they are creating capacity in the different reservoirs that flow through the county or flow into the county.” said Sotelo.

Sotelo continued to explain that residents should take advantage of services offered by the state and federal government in preparation for the impending snowmelt. These include the Disaster Resource Center services for farmers and The Debri Removal program which helps dispose of waste for county residents at no cost.

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