Garamendi Meets with Levee Stakeholders, Local Farmers, and Tours Emergency Levee Repairs
Clockwise from top left: Garamendi meeting with Habitat for Humanity, Garamendi being briefed on job placement programs in Yuba and Sutter counties, Garamendi discussing the next steps for the Oroville Dam and levees, Garamendi receiving an update on the state of levees from local flood control agencies, Garamendi meeting with Yuba-Sutter farmers (Link for hi-res: here, here, here,, here, here)
MARYSVILLE, CA -- Over the course of five meetings on March 3rd, Congressman John Garamendi (D-Yuba City, Fairfield, Davis, CA) met with a number of local leaders and farmers focused on the Oroville Dam spillway crisis, its impact on farmers, job training programs, and affordable housing.
“We came close to absolute catastrophe during the Oroville Dam spillway failure. Even though the worst case scenario didn’t materialize, it left local governments and farmers out a lot of money and seriously damaged levees and other essential water systems. Today’s briefings will help me be the best advocate possible for the Yuba-Sutter region as we rebuild and seek federal relief,” Congressman Garamendi said.
At the first meeting, he learned about services provided by Habitat for Humanity in the Yuba-Sutter area. At the second meeting, he was briefed on grant opportunities for job placement programs in Yuba and Sutter counties. There is concern that federal job training grants will be drastically cut under the Administration’s proposed budget, and many private foundations don’t issue grants to communities north of Sacramento. Garamendi reiterated his willingness to support worthy projects with letters and engage with federal agencies responsible for approving grants.
At the next meeting, several regional leaders discussed the aftermath of the Oroville Dam spillway failure and next steps for the recovery and repair of the Dam and levees. They noted that there was a big difference in community reaction between the Oroville Dam spillway breach evacuation and evacuations in the past. Social media helped spread news of the mandatory evacuation immediately, leading to far more vehicles fleeing all at once. This posed the obvious challenge of how to efficiently direct cars outside of the evacuation zone, but it was also a positive sign because the existing alert systems were effective in disseminating information.
The local agencies were appreciative of the California Office of Emergency Services’ and Department of Water Resources’ quick response to the Oroville Dam crisis during the emergency. They discussed the possibility of federal funding to upgrade levees and address soil erosion. The agencies also discussed the possibility of support from FEMA to rebuild levees, roads, and other public works. The Congressman urged them to tabulate the precise cost associated with the evacuation for purposes of seeking reimbursements from federal and state government agencies, including the impact on emergency services, infrastructure, small businesses, and schools.
The Congressman then met with Yuba-Sutter farmers at the Yuba-Sutter Farm Bureau. Yuba County Assistant Agricultural Commissioner Todd Quist, Sutter County Agricultural Commissioner Lisa Herbert, a representative from UC Cooperative Extension, and USDA’s Farm Service Agency were in attendance. Some farmers lost orchards and suffered landslides because of high water levels that resulted from the spillway failure. Garamendi urged them to keep meticulous note of all their losses, as they might be eligible for a low interest loan or grant, and it will be relevant information for any possible legal claims. Representatives from the Farm Service Agency and Yuba-Sutter Agricultural Commissioners offices also recommended that any farmers with crop loss or damage file a report with their office as soon as possible to help determine what resources are available.
Garamendi also received an update on the state of levees from the Sutter Butte Flood Control Agency, the Marysville Levee District, and Reclamation Districts 10, 784 and 1001. The discussion focused on whether the necessary repairs in the 3rd District would be eligible for federal assistance from the Army Corps of Engineers or FEMA Disaster Relief funds. There is significant damage to the levees in the Sacramento Valley basin and thorough assessments cannot be conducted until late May or June when the waters recede.
Garamendi ended his day touring the site of recent repair work by DWR and the Army Corps of Engineers at the confluence of the Feather River, Sacramento River, the Sutter Bypass, and the Natomas Cross Canal. The project was a series of four emergency seepage berms put in place to stabilize the levees and was completed February 27th.