Time to Invest in Delta Levees

US Army Corp of Engineers inspect a Sacramento river levee ( U.S. Army photo by Chris Gray-Garcia, Flickr).
US Army Corp of Engineers inspect a Sacramento river levee ( U.S. Army photo by Chris Gray-Garcia, Flickr).

Two hundred years ago most of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta) was a vast wetland. Early settlers built an intricate levee system to create dry “islands” suitable for farming.

Today, these levees help protect people, property, natural resources, and infrastructure of statewide importance. The Delta is home to more than 515,000 people and 750 animal and plant species; supplies drinking water to 25 million Californians and irrigation water for the majority of California’s agricultural industry; and attracts 12 million recreational visits annually.

Unfortunately the Delta levees are vulnerable to damage caused by floods, wave action, seepage, subsidence, earthquakes, and sea-level rise. While the occasional levee break is a fact of Delta life, a catastrophic levee failure could cause injury to people or loss of life. It could also damage property, highways, energy utilities, water supply systems, and the environment —all with regional and statewide consequences.

A variety of actions can be used to reduce flood risk in the Delta. The Delta Levees Council is developing a strategy to evaluate and guide future California investments to reduce the likelihood and consequences of levee failures. Interested? Learn more about this project and get involved by attending public meetings.

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Author: Jennifer Huber

As a Ph.D. physicist and research scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, I gained extensive experience in medical imaging and technical writing. Now, I am a full-time freelance science writer and science-writing instructor. I've lived in the San Francisco Bay Area most of my life and I frequently enjoy the eclectic cultural, culinary and outdoor activities available in the area.

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