Letter to the Editor

July 20, 2023

Dear Woodlake Community, 

The recent floods to the Woodlake area caused headache and heartache for many of us. It devastated homes, impacted families, and caused heavy concern for neighbors in the northwest part of the City. I want to assure you that your local and county agencies have been working collectively to address past, present and future flooding issues in the community. I, along with our Tulare County Fire Chief, Resource Management Agency personnel, Woodlake City elected officials and staff, and state and federal partners continue to gather monthly. At these meetings, we receive updates on direction for an Antelope Creek maintenance schedule, a project to include new siphon and gates at Antelope Creek and Wutchumna Ditch connection points, operational procedures for maintenance and coordination during emergencies, and funding opportunities for hazard mitigation. We are committed to seeing this through for the safety and well-being of all. 

General Facts:

The Tulare County Flood Control district’s primary function is to Primarily focus on implementing projects to improve conditions or maintain existing improvements. This includes coordination with other local, state, and federal agencies to implement projects and remain compliant with existing water rights and other stakeholders such as Irrigation Districts. The Tulare County Flood Control District does not have exclusive jurisdiction over flood and stormwater impacts.

The Tulare County Flood Control District owns parts of Antelope Creek, Creek (South of Naranjo through to the St. Johns River, where the Creek terminates, appx. 1.0 miles). They also own easements over parts of Antelope Creek (South of Cajon through to Naranjo/Ave 344; appx. 0.84 miles) They do not, however, have direct control over Antelope Creek in areas outside of the aforementioned sectors and they own the other drainage improvements on the East Side of the City near Rd 220.

March 2023 Flooding Impacts:

This year’s massive storm is a storm that has a 50-100yr return interval bringing over 11 inches of precipitation in portions of the county. This was followed by a series of smaller storms that arrived when infrastructure capacity was limited.

On Antelope Creek at Wutchumna Ditch, the typical capacity of the gates is 350 cubic feet per second (cfs). The designed capacity of the gates are approximately 500cfs when the gates were designed and installed in the late 1970s and owned by the Tulare County Flood Control District. These gates are currently operated by the Wutchumna Ditch Co. under agreements dating back to the 1990s.

As of 03/09/2023 – the gates were closed at the onset of the storm. The County of Tulare was notified on 3/9/23 (shortly before the storm) by the Wutchumna Ditch Co. that the gates needed to be rehabbed. The county planned to rehab the gates in the latter part of the year. In order to relieve flooding, a berm on Wutchumna Ditch was cut, in collaboration with the City of Woodlake. Following these measures, Emergency Rehab work was completed on 03/13/2023 in order to make the gates operable. The gates were opened for later March storms.

Future Project and Operations: 

To reiterate, we are working together to enhance conditions that will improve the flow of water in the area. Tulare County plans to undertake a project this year which will result in a gate rehab this fall. This includes repairing the Wutchumna berm. Engineering alternatives are being considered for the current system, including a large siphon under Wutchumna Ditch. The gate rehabilitation project may be part of a phased improvement project. Any project/improvements will be phased or scheduled so as not to impact flood control or irrigation flows on Wutchumna Ditch or Antelope Creek. The County and Wutchumna Ditch Co will be closely coordinating operations of the gates in the future.

In Service,

Eddie Valero
Supervisor, Fourth District
County of Tulare

Letters to the editor are not news articles but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.

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