Congressman John Garamendi

Representing the 3rd District of California
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Big Topic for 2012 is Levees

December 23, 2011
In The News
A new statewide flood-control plan calls for $14 billion to $17 billion in repairs and other investments. Welcome to another big project for 2012 and beyond. All of these projects are important, but Woodland and Yolo County residents are perhaps affected the most by levees, and state officials are saying that more than half of the state's 1,500 miles of levees don't meet standards. Adding to the problem is a requirement by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' that mandates the removal of trees and shrubs from federally designed and built levees. The regulation makes no sense and in fact would weaken the hundreds of miles of levees in and around the Delta. The trees and bushes, which lessen erosion, hold the earthen levees together and provide habitat for birds. Yet unless they are removed, there will be no federal funding for levee repairs after a flood. State and local levee management agencies say compliance would cost at least $7.5 billion to remove the vegetation from about 2,100 miles or 15 percent of the levees in California. The tree removal would not offer any more flood protection and actually contradicts Corps engineering studies that show vegetation protects levees by slowing flows and strengthening levees. The rule also violates federal environmental protections. Rep. John Garamendi, who lives on a levee in Walnut Grove, says local flood control district managers -- not Washington bureaucrats -- know what is necessary to protect their levees: "The Corps has set a one-size-fits all-policy. But would the Army buy the same size boot for every soldier?" Despite the obvious inanity of the tree-removal rule, the Corps remains opposed to changing it. We like to think that those suing the Corps will prevail, but there is no guarantee.