Delta benefits from EBMUD, DWR, reclamation districts and Delta Stewardship Council collaboration

The Mokelumne Aqueducts – three huge pipes that cross the Delta delivering water from the Sierra Mountain that comprises 90 percent of the supply for East Bay Municipal Utility District’s 1.4 million customers – are more secure today because of a lot of hard work that’s been going on behind the scenes for awhile. And quite significantly, the Delta, California’s jewel, is getting some much needed safeguards.

EBMUD, picked up the $6 million local matching fund tab and joined with the state Department of Water Resources (DWR) and five Delta Reclamation Districts (that govern Lower Roberts and Woodward Islands, Orwood and Palm, Upper Jones, and Lower Jones Tracts) in successfully applying for the approval from the Delta Stewardship Council for the release of $33.5 million in state funds for levee strengthening.

A little over a year ago, EBMUD and the reclamation districts, entered into an agreement that allowed DWR to implement the projects. Under the agreement, approved by the EBMUD Board of Directors, the District agreed to pay the 15 percent local share required before the state would release money for the project. The reclamation districts would be responsible for engineering, designing, building and contracting the actual work and remained owners, controllers and maintained control of operations of the levees and the improvements projects, noted the agreement.

In July 2011, the Delta Stewardship Council approved five projects and $20 million to improve the levee system which protects the District’s water supply aqueducts from flooding-related damage. Five levee improvement projects were planned at that time, four are near completion and the fifth is to be finished this summer.

On January 26, 2012, the Delta Stewardship Council approved an additional $13.5 million for four additional levee strengthening projects. Construction on these projects will begin in June of this year and be completed in a year. There is a proposal for a tenth levee strengthening project, but it has complex environmental issues that must be addressed before the collaborators seek an additional $1.5 million in state funding for that work, which would bring the state contribution to $35 million.

The goal is to bring the levees up to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers standards: crest height greater than 1.5 feet above the 100-year flood elevation, an all-weather crest roadway at least 16 feet wide, water side slopes flatter than two feet horizontal to one foot vertical, have a land side calculated factor slope safety of greater than 1.25, and have a land side levee toe drainage system. In other words, the levees will be in much better shape to withstand flooding.

“These levee projects substantially improve the stability of the levees and help protect the District’s water supply as well as the critical state agricultural, cultural, and historical resources in addition to the ecosystems in the Delta,” said John A. Coleman, president of the EBMUD Board of Directors. “This is also a prime example of how we can all work together, multiple local and state agencies, to get important work done do help fix the situation in the Delta.”