Valley agencies race against winter, deadline to repair flood damage

Heavy equipment scrapes out massive amounts of sand that washed into Yokohl Creek during this year's floods. This is one of many projects underway by Kaweah Delta Conservation District to repair flood damage before winter.(Lisa McEwen / SJV Water)

Agencies continue to scramble to fix the previous winter’s flood damage while El Nino and state deadlines loom

TULARE COUNTY –  All across Tulare County, the race is on to repair flood-damaged infrastructure before an anticipated El Niño winter and an even more looming expiration of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order that relaxed permitting for levee work and debris clean up.

The work has lagged, though, as creeks and rivers are still flowing or the ground is still too soggy for heavy equipment.

Because of that, some agencies are seeking an extension of Newsom’s executive order, which expires Nov. 1.

That order, issued Aug. 4, suspended lake and streambed alteration regulations under the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and limited water quality certifications that would delay permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the California Environmental Quality Act.

A spokesman for Gov. Newsom’s office did not provide answers about whether the governor is considering an extension of the order in time for this story.

Tulare flood costs top $100 million

Meanwhile, agencies have also been busy submitting costs for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Of six San Joaquin Valley counties looked at by SJV Water, Tulare County submitted the largest reimbursement request so far – $110 million. SJV Water sought FEMA reimbursement requests for Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern counties. Some costs are still coming in, so these tallies will likely increase.

Kern has the next highest reimbursement request at $47 million, then Kings at nearly $46 million, Merced at $28 million, Fresno at $27 million and then Madera at only $8.5 million. Those amounts could change as pending requests are added to the tally.

FEMA reimbursement funding is only available to government agencies and doesn’t reflect what private individuals have had to pay to repair homes and businesses that were also flooded out.

Those FEMA reimbursement funds, if granted, will help pay for everything from new school buildings to replacing or repairing bridges and roads.

High flows hamper work

In Tulare County, the Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District had the largest, combined reimbursement request. It is asking FEMA for $48 million for a host of projects.

The district covers 340,000 acres in Tulare and Kings counties and has a hefty to-do list once water recedes, including the repair and restoration of levees along the Kaweah and St. Johns rivers, and the Cross, Deep, Mill, Inside and Yokohl creeks as well as Johnsons Slough and Peoples Ditch.

High flows hamper work

In Tulare County, the Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District had the largest, combined reimbursement request. It is asking FEMA for $48 million for a host of projects.

The district covers 340,000 acres in Tulare and Kings counties and has a hefty to-do list once water recedes, including the repair and restoration of levees along the Kaweah and St. Johns rivers, and the Cross, Deep, Mill, Inside and Yokohl creeks as well as Johnsons Slough and Peoples Ditch.

SJV Water is a nonprofit, independent online news publication covering water in the San Joaquin Valley. Lois Henry is the CEO/Editor of SJV Water. She can be reached at [email protected]. The website is www.sjvwater.org.

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