As work gets underway on the state budget, the recent weather events in California — which left more than a dozen people dead and caused tens of thousands to evacuate their homes — have put a spotlight on the state of water infrastructure.
In the new budget proposal he recently announced, Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed $202 million to go toward flood protection. The investments will be divided between urban flood risk reduction, delta levees and Central Valley flood protection, according to the plan.
“The state’s proposed 2023 budget recognizes the need for critical investments in our water infrastructure, with new funding proposed for flood risk reduction and protection, as well as several other important water management strategies,” said Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton. “As California’s policymakers, my fellow representatives and I must constantly readdress infrastructure limitations in our state.”
The governor’s proposal isn’t the final product. Legislators will hold hearings and work through the proposal. Newsom’s office will release a revised plan based on the latest economic forecast in May, and the legislature has until June 15 to pass the budget.
Assemblymember Diane Dixon, R-Huntington Beach, said Orange County does a great job of water control and management. But more could be done, she said — and that’s where the state comes in throughout the budget process.
“No matter what your beef is about climate change, we have a long history of living through floods, mudslides and large amounts of rainfall,” Dixon said. “Local government has been aggressively working on flood control. The state needs to resource flood control and water retention. We are woefully behind.”
At the local level, projects that aim to evaluate flood risk and redesign standing structures to strengthen flood protection are underway. Here’s a look at three that legislators want to see more of the likes of.
East Garden Grove Wintersburg Channel Improvement Project
Located in Huntington Beach between Pacific Coast Highway and Warner Avenue, the East Garden Grove Wintersburg Channel is a regional flood control facility that spans more than 10 miles.
The project is projected to be finished next month. Construction started in August 2020 to bring the channel up to current design standards and enhance flood protection for nearby residents.
Shannon Widor, strategic communications officer for OC Public Works, said the remaining work includes adding covers on top of sections of the steel sheet pile walls installed on either side of the channel. Before construction, channel walls were made of soil, which is susceptible to erosion. Cement has since been injected into the standing soil, and coupled with the non-erodible sheet piles — interlocked steel sections that together create a continuous wall — will provide stronger support against high water levels during heavy rainfall.
The new design aspects will also prevent ponding in the back of the channel walls, which are very close to adjacent properties.
Huntington Beach Channel and Talbert Channel Sheet Piles Repair Project
Orange County is home to many coastal communities, from Seal Beach to San Clemente, which face great flood risks.
This particular project in Huntington Beach intends to strengthen flood protection for surrounding communities by replacing corroded steel sheet piles that have a life expectancy of fewer than 10 years with more durable steel sheet piles. The water drainage system will also be improved with a new curb and gutter system to prevent erosion.
The goal is to eliminate homeowners’ need to purchase flood insurance, which was required for some when they received a mortgage or home improvement loan.
Widor said substantial project completion is expected in August, while total completion should be done by January 2024.
Yorba Street Roadway, Stormwater Drainage and Sidewalk Project
In combination with similar proposed drainage and sidewalk improvements on nearby Prospect Avenue in unincorporated Santa Ana, OC Public Works is planning to improve a portion of Yorba Street to reduce flooding and improve pedestrian safety.
Widor said construction is estimated to start in July and run through June of next year. The design phase is underway and OC Public Works is collecting input from residents, he said. The project will repave a portion of Yorba Street and install a curb and gutter system to separate the road from properties that sit along it.
In its current state, the area does not have a sidewalk but has open ditches adjacent to the road. Uneven pavement also poses a risk to pedestrians: Even small pools of water that form during periods of heavy rain can put an unsupervised child at risk of drowning.
“The purpose of the project is to not only address ponding water at certain street locations in the area due to heavy rainfall but also to add a sidewalk to connect with other sidewalks in the community and enhance pedestrian safety,” Widor said.
Assemblymember Tri Ta, who represents parts of Santa Ana, said Orange County has been prepared for water disasters but could use more help from the state to keep residents safe.
“This is not a new issue, it has been raised for many, many years,” he said. “The governor needs to pay more attention.”
Source: Orange County Register
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